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1. Archie Joins the Humble Bundle Bandwagon; Image Scores with 2nd Bundle

ALBV logo 285x300 Archie Joins the Humble Bundle Bandwagon; Image Scores with 2nd BundleBy Bruce Lidl

Following immediately on the conclusion of the second Image Comics Humble Bundle, Archie Comics has joined the Humble Bundle comics movement with its first release. Humble Bundles are curated collections of digital comics available under a “pay what you want” revenue model. Customers can choose their payment amount for the basic pack, or spend extra money for additional content. Customers can also choose what percentage of their payment goes to the publisher, to the Humble Bundle company and to a charity picked for the bundle, in this case either the Hero Initiative or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Also, all Humble Bundle comic collections are sold in variety of formats, with absolutely no DRM restrictions embedded in them.

Past digital comics Humble Bundles have proven very popular and generated considerable revenue for publishers and charities. The first Image Humble Bundle in April 2014 received almost $400,000 in payments, while the just completed Image bundle got over $450,000, and appears to have been the highest grossing comics bundle so far.

Today’s Archie bundle contains Afterlife With Archie Magazine #1, The Fox: Freak Magnet, Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 1, and The Best of Archie Book One. Customers that pay more than the going average price also get The Death of Archie, Archie Meets KISS, The Best of Archie Book Two, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1, and Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 2., while those who pay $15 or more will receive all of the above plus Afterlife With Archie Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale, Archie Comics Spectacular: Party Time, Archie: The Married Life Vol. 1, and Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 3. Other incentive titles will likely get added over the course of the bundle’s two week run.

At this point, the sole remaining publisher holdouts from Humble Bundle appear to be Marvel and DC. While initially designed for independent video gaming publishers, even rather large gaming companies have used Humble Bundle since its inception in 2010, including EA and THQ. Interestingly, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment participated in a gaming Humble Bundle in November 2013 that included comics themed games Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, distributed through the Steam gaming platform. Whether that might indicate a broader Warner Brothers/DC openness to the Humble Bundle philosophy remains to be seen.

3 Comments on Archie Joins the Humble Bundle Bandwagon; Image Scores with 2nd Bundle, last added: 1/22/2015
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2. Marvel and Image on the Newsstand: More Details Emerging About Diamond and Books A Million

bam star wars 219x300 Marvel and Image on the Newsstand: More Details Emerging About Diamond and Books A Million

BAM’s exclusive Star Wars #1 variant cover. Oh, yes, they’re part of the DM now.

When last we discussed what was going on with Diamond and Books A Million (BAM), it wasn’t entirely clear what was going on, other than there were comics on sale and they were coming from Diamond, bagged & boarded.  Interestingly, _nobody_ wanted to comment about their monthly comics being available at BAM.  Diamond would not give a written confirmation this was happening, although I got a verbal confirmation that BAM was a customer and the books were not returnable.

How often do publishers NOT want to tell you where you can buy their books?  Or a retail chain doesn’t want to tell you what they carry?

I did eventually get some information from that most notorious of informants, “the unnamed source.”  As usual, “unnamed” was in a position to clarify what was going on.  There are apparently around 70 BAM-owned stores getting shipments from Diamond.  All 23 of the “2nd & Charles” used book chain owned by BAM and 40-ish BAM stores.  This apparently started back around August, so it appears to be a rollout with my local store only coming online in December.

My source says 25-30 titles are being ordered and that lines up with what I’ve seen in person.  Most of the comics in the store near me appear to have 3 copies at most and as it goes into the second month of stocking the DM titles, there are multiple issues of some titles on the rack.  It’s a mix of Marvel, Image and IDW.  Heavier on the Marvel, if all the stores stock the same.

Now, going back to 2nd & Charles, I was informed that they were doing pull lists.  I called one up.  Sure enough, they had pull lists.  And I didn’t have to explain what a pull list was, either, which is interesting, since I’d consider that a DM-centric term.  I also asked if they could special order a comic?  The response was that they could make a request, but it wouldn’t necessarily get filled.  In contrast, I asked the local BAM if they could place a special order for me and they said they only got what the distributor sent them.

I surmise from those responses that the ordering for BAM is still fairly centralized, which would make a certain amount of sense if it isn’t completely rolled out and/or is still in a pilot stage.  (BAM didn’t return phone calls or emails on the topic.)

I also see BAM has their very own Star Wars #1 variant cover, so they’re being a fairly active participant in stocking Marvel.  Looked like a 10 copy order for my local, much heavier than anything else.

So, 250 BAM stores at 3 copies per title = 750 copies for anything they carry at such a time as it becomes a full rollout.  Maybe they order heavier on some things, maybe they don’t.  At what point the stores get the authority/ability to place special orders with Diamond is a very interesting question, since there’s no reason someone with an account shouldn’t be able to do so.

It may or may not be a coincidence that Dark Horse has disappeared off the newsstand at both BAM and Barnes & Noble in my area.  I’m waiting to see if Dark Horse turns up bagged & boarded at BAM.

I’m also waiting to see if Marvel, Image and IDW turn up at Barnes & Noble.  That’s pure speculation, but Hastings has a relationship with Diamond.  BAM has a relationship with Diamond.  I can’t imagine Diamond not trying to get some product placement on the Barnes & Noble newsstand.

The number of Direct Market comic shops is thought to be around 2600.  Adding in 250 BAMs bumps it around 9%, even if it’s a limited selection.  Barnes & Noble would be more like 750 locations.  We’ll see if it happens, but Diamond’s reach is getting wider with BAM and more places to buy is a good thing for anybody whose title gets picked up, although I suspect that DM retailers are not going to be particularly happy about this development.

——————

Have you read Todd’s book Economics of Digital Comics?  You can also ignore him on Twitter at @Real_Todd_Allen

4 Comments on Marvel and Image on the Newsstand: More Details Emerging About Diamond and Books A Million, last added: 1/21/2015
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3. Comichron: Comics sales overcame stinky winter to go up this year

BY JOHN JACKSON MILLER

[Reprinted with permission from Comichron]

With today’s release of December comics orders from Diamond Comic Distributors — and our subsequent analysis and estimates for December 2014 comics sales now posted — Comichron has drawn upon that information to project estimates for the Top Thousand Comics and the Top Thousand Graphic Novels for 2014. Click to see them.
201404AmazingSpiderManV3n1 Comichron: Comics sales overcame stinky winter to go up this yearThe tables are on the page just beneath the image links to individual months. As in past years, it is a large page, necessarily, so it may take a bit to load. Also as in the past, I have rounded off estimates to the nearest hundred comics.

Before launching into a discussion of what’s on the list, some more general thoughts on 2014, now that we’ve seen all the data:

• Last winter stank, but it didn’t matter. Headlines for comics sales in January, February, and March 2014 were dire in many places (though not here); the Direct Market was off 4% in the first quarter, overall, or about $5 million. But comics shops made that up in April alone. Across the next three quarters. the market was up 7.1%, or $28 million — allowing the final comics and graphic novel total sale for the year to be up more than 4%, or $23 million to $540.4 million.

It’s a good reminder that not all sales seasons are created equal (especially not as January 2014 had one of its weeks given to December 2013 in the accounting), and that the amount of volume in the market is what matters. It is also a good reminder as we look ahead to the figures for the first part of this year, which will be infused by Star Wars #1‘s blockbuster sales: its effect is likely to be even further amplified given the lower amount of releases to the market in the winter. The addition of a million-copy book to a market that might only see 6 or 7 million copies sold in January could be quite significant.

• 2014 was not the year of the blockbuster — despite a new record-setting comic book. As noted further below, Amazing Spider-Man #1 from April broke all sales records from the last fifteen years — but it was largely an outlier, as six months out of twelve the top-seller for the month was the book that leads the list when no blockbusters are around: Batman. (Not that Batman’s sales haven’t been blockbuster some months in the past, just that it is the typical industry leader in non-event months.) This seems to have played out in the charts in general, as we see in the Top Thousand and the larger indexes that the upper tier books didn’t carry as much weight this year, even as comics sales overall grew.

Here’s some visible evidence of the shape of the market, as seen on the lists. We find the following breakdowns for unit sales:

NUMBER OF COMIC BOOK ISSUES SELLING
AT LEAST THIS MANY COPIES DURING YEAR

 
200,000+ 100,000+ 75,000+ 50,000+ 25,000+ 10,000+ 2009 2 39 119 379 n.a. n.a. 2010 0 26 94 303 955 n.a. 2011 3 42 86 343 984 n.a. 2012 5 63 129 403 1100 2250 2013 6 64 178 390 1128 2430 2014 4 40 108 401 1195 2353
Another way to look at the above is: where does the 100,000-copy level start on the chart? In 2010, every book above 26th place sold that many copies or more; in 2014, six-figures started at 40th place.

As you can see, the upper tiers, above 75,000 copies, fell off dramatically from 2013 to 2014. But the next tiers bulked up. The best guess is that about 3,800 comics sold at least 5,000 copies — which makes sense, considering that’s about where the 300th place cutoff is each month these days.

Now to that list. The Top Thousand Comics account for around 52.07 million copies; that’s well over half of all the comics that Diamond sold. The figure is down from 54.21 million copies in 2013, though Diamond’s unit sales of comics overall were up 0.25%.  In 2012 the figure was 53.43 million copies; in 2011, it was 47 million copies, and in 2010, the total was 45.3 million copies.

Using our database to project sales for other issues, it appears that the Top 2,500 Comics for the year sold around 78 million copies, down from 79 million in 2013. So the farther down the list we go, the more the unit sales picture improves.

In full retail dollars, the Top Thousand Comics sold for $201.03 million, a $1 million drop from last year’s total of $202.02 million. (See the 2013 article here and charts here.) Again, since Diamond’s dollar sales for comics were up 4%, it’s clear that the highest-selling comics were not where the growth was last year — but rather, the titles selling fewer than 25,000 copies each. And it’s growth from 2012’s figure, which was $191.4 million. (See the 2012 article here and charts here.)

Doing the same estimating for the Top 2,500 Comics puts 2014 ahead of 2013, $294 million versus $288 million.

Once again this year, almost every single one of the Top 100 comics on the list had a “multiple order codes” notation from Diamond, meaning there were variant covers or reprints combined to make the main entry.

The Top Thousand Graphic Novels, led by Saga Vol. 3, went for $81.19 million, up from $79.03 million in 2013, from $71.4 million in 2012, and from $58.4 million in 2011. Combined, the Top Thousand Comics and Top Thousand Graphic Novel lists account for about 52% of the orders by dollars Diamond received in publishing last year, which was around $540 million. That percentage is down from 54% in 2013 and 55% in 2012. Again, the best-selling books are accounting for less and less, even as the pie grows larger.

TOP COMICS OF THE YEAR, DECADE, AND CENTURY


The renumbered Amazing Spider-Man #1 was the top seller of the year; Comichron estimates that, all told, around 559,200 copies of the issue, including all variants, were ordered by Direct Market retailers in North America. That’s enough to make it the highest-selling comic book of the 21st Century through the end of 2014; Marvel’s Star Wars #1, released last week, will easily surpass it, but we won’t see it on the list until Diamond releases its 2015 end-of-year data next year.

So it will be a short reign for the Spider-Man issue atop the list — less than a year. The issue takes the spot held for five years by the Obama Amazing Spider-Man #583, with orders of 530,500 copies in 2009. You can see the updated top-sellers by year here.

The entire Top Comics of the 21st Century list has been updated, and it has been split into lists for thedecade of 2000-2009 and the decade of the 2010s. One more comic book from 2014, Walking Dead#132, cracked the Top 10 for the Century, landing at #8. It’s the third year in a row an issue from the series has broken into the list, but this one comes with a dagger in our charts, noting that most of its sales came from a single gigantic purchase by the repackager Loot Crate. While the copies were sold by Diamond and can’t be separated out, it is worth some kind of footnote so readers in future years will know why this one issue ranked the way it did.

The Top 10 since 2000, up to 2014:

TEN MOST ORDERED COMIC BOOKS OF THE 21ST CENTURY (up to 2014)
  Comic-book Title Issue Ship Price Publisher Est. sales
1 Amazing Spider-Man (new series) 1 Apr-14 $5.99 Marvel 559,200
2 Amazing Spider-Man 583 Jan-09 $3.99 Marvel 530,500
3 Walking Dead (including Chromium edition) 100 Jul-12 $3.99 Image 384,800
4 Civil War 2 Jun-06 $2.99 Marvel 341,900
5 Civil War 3 Jul-06 $2.99 Marvel 337,000
6 Walking Dead 115 Oct-13 $2.99 Image 329,300
7 Civil War 1 Feb-13 $3.99 Marvel 328,500
8 Walking Dead† 132 Oct-14 $2.99 Image 326,300
9 Justice League of America 1 Feb-13 $3.99 DC 326,000
10 Captain America 25 Mar-07 $3.99 Marvel 317,700

Uncanny Avengers #1 and Civil War #4 were bumped from the Top 10.

Fourteen issues from 2014 made the Top 300 for the 21st Century list, once again fewer than last year. Five 2014 issues made the Top 100, and four made the Top 50.

THE PUBLISHERS
Who published the Top Thousand Comics this year? Here’s the breakdown:

Marvel: 512 (+20 from 2013)
DC: 407 (-3 from 2013)
Image: 57 (+8 from 2013)
Dark Horse: 14 (-4 from 2013)

Archie: 4
(+3 from 2013)
Titan: 3 (+3 from 2013)
IDW: 1
(-14 from 2013)
Valiant: 1 (unchanged from 2013)
Dynamite: 1 (unchanged from 2013)

That’s a pretty short list, with Aspen and Boom dropping out. Titan made the list, thanks to Doctor Who. Marvel picked up a bunch, while the biggest drop-off belonged to IDW, mostly for the reason that My Little Pony isn’t as high on the charts as it was in 2013.

And here’s the publisher breakdown of the Top Thousand Graphic Novels. Those with 10 or more entries:

DC: 393 (+31 from 2013)
Marvel: 251 (-37 from 2013)
Image: 115 (+19 from 2013)
Dark Horse: 88 (-3 from 2013) 
IDW: 36 (-6 from 2013)
Random House: 25 (+8 from 2013)
Boom: 19 (+7 from 2013)

Viz: 17 (+1 from 2013)
Oni: 10 (+1 from 2013)

Marvel’s loss is almost the size of DC’s gain, and Image picked up a lot. Random House and Boom also made headway into the list.

Walking Dead softcovers and hardcovers in the Top 2,500 added up to more than $6.5 million at retail — with comics bringing the total for the line up to nearly $10.8 million. That’s enough to give it a market share of exactly 2%, which would make it once again the seventh largest publisher for the year, after Dynamitewere it a separate firm.

COVER PRICES

The average cost of the comic books retailers ordered in the Top Thousand was $3.86, but that goes down to $3.79 when you extend the chart to the Top 2,500. The average comic book offered in 2014 only cost $3.72, so people are tending toward the more expensive comics. This may also explain why the books at the top of the charts aren’t pulling the same weight as they had before when it comes to number of units moved: the books atop the charts were more likely to cost more.With the December data, we now have a 20-year monthly track on comics sales. While average prices on the covers of all offerings (the black line) and the average price of all the comics retailers bought (the red line) have been increasing, we note that they haven’t been too far off what prices would have been if they followed inflation exactly. The green line below tracks what the average comic book at the end of 2014 — $2.25 — would have cost if it followed the inflation rate exactly:
 MonthlypricesvsCPI Comichron: Comics sales overcame stinky winter to go up this year

Since comics are linked to prices to other goods and services — like paper and ink, and what it costs to hire talent — it’s not too surprising that the average prices tend to have been a bit higher. And we can see that there have been times in which prices have increased faster than others: particularly 2008-2010, when major publishers tried to go from $2.99 to $3.99 in defiance of the general recession the rest of the economy was suffering. Comics publishers pulled back on price increases at that point. But generally, we might expect that a $2.25 comic book in 1994 ought to cost about $3.50 now — which it might if most publishers didn’t eschew half-dollar increments. We’re not far off of that.

To a degree, some of the perception of high comics prices comes from a lack of collective memory about what comics used to cost: look back on monthly changes over time and annual median prices since 1961 here. And the track of the green line above would be different depending on what year it started in: 1994 was a year in which paper supply was in great demand, and so that $2.25 baseline could already have been high. But there generally haven’t been many wild departures from inflation in the general economy in the last 20 years.

Repeating the end-of-year report, the comic shop market in North America ordered more than $540 million worth of comics and graphic novels in 2014, an increase of 4% over 2013. The final end-of-year report, bringing in outside channels and digital, will appear later this year. You can look back on the 2013 Overall charts here.

There are 23 other years of Diamond annual reports on the site, going back to 1991. You can also find comparatives for how the market as a whole did across that time by viewing our Yearly Comics Salespage.

ST TNG Takedown Cvr%2B100%2Bwide Comichron: Comics sales overcame stinky winter to go up this yearJohn Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 20 years, including a decade editing the industry’s retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises. He is the author of several novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Dawn, and the upcoming Star Trek: The Next Generation – Takedown, releasing January 27. Visit his fiction site athttp://www.farawaypress.com.

5 Comments on Comichron: Comics sales overcame stinky winter to go up this year, last added: 1/22/2015
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4. Sales Charts: Marvel and DC split top shares in December 2014 sales

Batman 37 Sales Charts: Marvel and DC split top shares in December 2014 sales

Yawn. Batman and Saga led the comics and graphic nvoels charts for Decembers 2014, as they so often do, according to just released stats from Diamond. Batman #37 was the best selling comics periodical, while Saga Vol. 4 led the GNs. Marvel and DC actually split the top publisher shares, with Marvel leading in dollars and DC in units. Image hovered around 10% in both units and dollars, with another strong month.

And after 2014’s slow start things picked up a lot: comics sales were up 4.03% over 2013, graphic novel were up 5.18% and the second half of 2014 was up sharply from the first half: 19.34% in comics and 10.54% in graphic novels.

While Saga’s strong showing is no surprise in GNs, maybe it is a little that the #2 GN was Captain America: Peggy Carter: Agent of SHIELD which reprinted a bunch of her appearances from the Golden Age on. That a TV tie-in should do well isn’t such a surprise, but in the past that hasn’t always worked for Marvel and of course, it’s yet another female led title doing well.

 

dollar share1 Sales Charts: Marvel and DC split top shares in December 2014 sales unit share1 Sales Charts: Marvel and DC split top shares in December 2014 sales

TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS

PUBLISHER DOLLAR

SHARE

UNIT

SHARE

MARVEL COMICS 32.07% 34.10% DC COMICS 31.76% 36.17% IMAGE COMICS 9.89% 10.40% IDW PUBLISHING 6.10% 4.17% DARK HORSE COMICS 3.47% 2.95% BOOM! STUDIOS 2.66% 2.82% DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 2.58% 2.26% EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS 1.22% 0.22% ARCHIE COMICS 0.88% 0.91% AVATAR PRESS 0.86% 0.74% OTHER NON-TOP 10 8.50% 5.25%

NEW TITLES SHIPPED

PUBLISHER COMICS SHIPPED GRAPHIC NOVELS SHIPPED MAGAZINES SHIPPED TOTAL

SHIPPED

DC COMICS 102 36 1 139 MARVEL COMICS 77 24 0 101 IMAGE COMICS 52 18 0 70 IDW PUBLISHING 44 24 0 68 BOOM! STUDIOS 42 6 0 48 DARK HORSE COMICS 30 12 0 42 DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 33 3 0 36 VIZ MEDIA 0 22 0 22 ACTION LAB ENTERTAINMENT 15 1 0 16 HACHETTE BOOK GROUP USA 0 16 0 16 OTHER 94 81 31 206

 

COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

  DOLLARS UNITS
DECEMBER 2014 VS. NOVEMBER 2014
COMICS 1.77% 0.31%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -18.50% -21.51%
TOTAL COMICS/GN -5.14% -1.64%
DECEMBER 2014 VS. DECEMBER 2013
COMICS 6.67% 4.50%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -5.41% -8.39%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 2.83% 3.46%
CALENDAR YEAR 2014 VS. CALENDAR YEAR 2013
COMICS 4.03% 0.25%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 5.18% 5.28%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 4.39% 0.64%
FOURTH QUARTER 2014 VS. THIRD QUARTER 2014
COMICS -2.90% -1.57%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 6.31% 4.02%
TOTAL COMICS/GN -0.20% -1.16%
FOURTH QUARTER 2014 VS. FOURTH QUARTER 2013
COMICS 7.89% 7.05%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 7.56% 6.13%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 7.78% 6.98%
SECOND-HALF 2014 VS. FIRST-HALF 2014
COMICS 19.34% 18.58%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 10.54% 4.26%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 16.53% 17.36%

TOP 10 COMIC BOOKS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 BATMAN #37 $3.99 OCT140293-M DC
2 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #11 $3.99 OCT140829-M MAR
3 S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 $4.99 OCT140813-M MAR
4 BATMAN ANNUAL #3 $4.99 OCT140297 DC
5 THOR #3 $3.99 OCT140862-M MAR
6 JUSTICE LEAGUE #37 $3.99 OCT140223-M DC
7 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 $4.99 OCT140824-M MAR
8 AVENGERS AND X-MEN: AXIS #7 $3.99 OCT140781-M MAR
9 AVENGERS AND X-MEN: AXIS #9 $4.99 OCT140787-M MAR
10 AVENGERS AND X-MEN: AXIS #8 $3.99 OCT140784-M MAR


TOP 10 GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 SAGA VOLUME 4 TP (MR) $14.99 OCT140644 IMA
2 CAPTAIN AMERICA: PEGGY CARTER: AGENT OF SHIELD $7.99 OCT140823 MAR
3 JUST THE TIPS HC (MR) $12.99 SEP140590 IMA
4 THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS VOL. 5: THE COLD WAR TP $14.99 SEP140630 IMA
5 SUNSTONE VOLUME 1 TP (MR) $14.99 OCT140613 IMA
6 SUPERMAN UNCHAINED DELUXE EDITION HC $29.99 AUG140334 DC
7 BATMAN: THE JIRO KUWATA BATMANGA VOLUME 1 TP $14.99 SEP140283 DC
8 NEW 52: FUTURES END VOLUME 1 TP (N52) $39.99 SEP140303 DC
9 NIGHTWING VOLME 5: SETTING SON TP (N52) $16.99 SEP140309 DC
10 THE WALKING DEAD VOLUME 1: DAYS GONE BYE TP $14.99 NOV128157 IMA

TOP 10 BOOKS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 DREAM LOGIC HC $34.99 AUG140029 DAR
2 THE SHADOW DOUBLE NOVEL VOLUME 89 SC $14.95 SEP141909 SAN
3 THE SHADOW DOUBLE NOVEL VOLUME 90 SC $14.95 OCT141853 SAN
4 DOC SAVAGE DOUBLE NOVEL VOLUME 78 SC $14.95 SEP141908 SAN
5 DOCTOR WHO VISUAL DICTIONARY: UPDATED EXPANDED HC $25.00 OCT141845 DK
6 STAR TREK: SHIPS OF THE LINE: REVISED & UPDATED HC $30.00 SEP141911 POC
7 DOCTOR WHO: 12 DOCTORS 12 STORIES SLIPCASE EDITIOIN $24.99 JUN148309 PEN
8 SWORD ART ONLINE VOLUME 3: FAIRY DANCE $13.00 OCT141784 HAC
9 CATS OF TANGLEWOOD FOREST SC $8.00 OCT141850 HAC
10 LEGEND OF ZELDA: HYRULE HISTORIA HC $34.99 SEP120055 DAR

TOP 10 TOYS

RANK DESCRIPTION ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS: HOLIDAY HARLEY QUINN STATUE JUL140302 DC
2 DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS: ZATANNA STATUE JUN140324 DC
3 DC COMICS DESIGNER SERIES 2: CAPULLO DELUXE BATMAN THRASHER ACTION FIGURE MAY140428 DC
4 LEGEND OF ZELA: WIND WAKER LINK NENDOROID MAY142613 GOO
5 BATMAN ARKHAM ORIGINS ACTION FIGURE 4-PACK JUL140295 DC
6 BATMAN BLACK & WHITE STATUE BY MICHAEL TURNER JUN140319 DC
7 METROID: OTHER M: SAMUS ARAN FIGMA ACTION FIGURE JUN132073 GOO
8 MARVEL SELECT: VENOM ACTION FIGURE AUG121762 DIA
9 DC COMICS DESIGNER SERIES 3: ZERO YEAR BATMAN ACTION FIGURE AUG140379 DC
10 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY PLATINUM LEGENDS ACTION FIGURES MAY142325 HAS


TOP 10 GAMES

RANK DESCRIPTION ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 MONOPOLY: THE WALKING DEAD SURVIVAL EDITION OCT128266 USA
2 MINECRAFT: OFFICIAL MOJANG COMBAT HANDBOOK HC FEB142547 SCH
3 MINECRAFT: OFFICIAL MOJANG CONSTRUCTION HANDBOOK HC FEB142548 SCH
4 LEGEND OF ZELDA MONOPOLY JUL142617 USA
5 MARVEL DICE MASTERS UNCANNY X-MEN AUG142843 NEC
6 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES RETRO MONOPOLY OCT142798 USA
7 FIREFLY CLUE OCT142797 USA
8 THE WALKING DEAD: YAHTZEE COLLECTOR’S EDITION OCT142799 USA
9 DC DECK BUILDING GAME 3: FOREVER EVIL JUN142618 CRY
10 DOCTOR WHO: DALEK YAHTZEE COLLECTOR’S EDITION OCT142796 USA

7 Comments on Sales Charts: Marvel and DC split top shares in December 2014 sales, last added: 1/19/2015
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5. Image Does Humble Bundle Once Again

humble3 300x269 Image Does Humble Bundle Once Again

By Bruce Lidl

Lost somewhat in the initial burst of news from last week’s ImageExpo was the announcement of a new Image Humble Bundle offering, beginning that morning and lasting until January 21. The “Humble Image Comics Bundle 2: Image Firsts” is a massive collection of digital comics that can be purchased for whatever price the consumer chooses. Included in the basic bundle are the beginning issues of a number of recent series, including Alex + Ada, Deadly Class, C.O.W.L., Elephantmen 2260 Book One, Minimum Wage, God Hates Astronauts, Genius, and Satellite Sam. Paying at least $15 also gets you the slightly higher profile titles The Manhattan Projects, The Wicked + The Divine, The Fuse, Velvet, Sex Criminals, Wytches, The Walking Dead Vol. 22: A New Beginning (#127-132), The Fade Out #1, Nailbiter, Stray Bullets, Southern Bastards, and Shutter. And finally, a stretch price of $18 brings The Walking Dead Compendium One (#1-48), East of West: The World, and Saga Book One (#1-18). For anybody at all interested in Image brand comics, the price truly cannot be beat, especially as the retail price of the comics would be over $300 according to Humble Bundle. Also, purchasers are strongly encouraged to mark a portion of their price paid towards charity, in this case the comics creator focused Hero Initiative. As of this evening, the Image bundle has generated almost $318,000, with over five days left to go.

The current offering is the third Humble Bundle to include Image titles. The first time Humble Bundle included any digital comics was the Image bundle in April 2014 that generated almost $400,000 revenue in two weeks, with titles including Saga, Walking Dead, Fatale, Invincible and Chew. Image imprint Skybound also did a special Comic-Con Humble Bundle in July 2014 as well, which was almost entirely Kirkman based titles such as The Walking Dead, Invincible, Thief of Thieves, and Super Dinosaur. That bundle alone generated $232,000.

Other comic publishers that have released Humble Bundles since April include Dark Horse, Oni, Dynamite, BOOM!, IDW, Top Shelf and Valiant. According to Kelley Allen, Director of Books for Humble Bundle, comics publishers are eager to work with them, and she has a number of ebook and comics bundles planned in 2015 alongside Humble Bundle’s traditional gaming focused offerings. The average revenue number for the comics based bundles so far has been $288,000 for the 14 day period. According to Allen, non-gaming bundles allow Humble to “break out from their core gaming audience” but from the comics perspective, they can also create “enormous crossover” by getting great comics in front of the very large Humble Bundle community. With a very clearly defined, and devoted, young male demographic, Humble Bundle chooses comics with both a logical appeal, like Transformers, Star Wars and The Walking Dead, but Allen also curates high quality titles that may stretch demographic borders. She “pushed very hard” to include titles like Sex Criminals in the latest Image bundle, trusting the Humble Bundle audience to appreciate an outstanding title, even without prior awareness.

humble1 222x300 Image Does Humble Bundle Once Again

While the Humble Bundles may help expand the reach of digital comics, they are also helping to encourage comics publishers to feel comfortable with forgoing DRM protections for their products. Humble Bundles, regardless of content, gaming or ebooks, do not use Digital Rights Management anti-copying technologies, both for philosophical reasons and from a practical standpoint. As Allen pointed out, why use DRM when the consumer could theoretically decide to purchase the content for one cent in any case? Even Dark Horse, which has been very reluctant to forgo DRM generally, was convinced to try not using it for their big Star Wars themed Humble Bundle in October and was rewarded with sales over $375,000 for the two week offering.

Fundamentally, the Humble Bundle “pay what you want” approach reflects exactly the insights independent game developers have learned over the years in regards to digital sales. Since their products are almost universally available to be pirated, often in formats that are actually *more* user friendly than the official versions, game creators have learned to embrace the concept of giving customers compelling reasons to purchase, in the recognition that they do not have to anymore. Distribution options like Steam and Humble Bundle provide explicit value beyond what a pirated version can give, whether through ease of use, personal connection to the creators, community recognition, charitable giving, etc. The Humble Bundle experiment really leverages the unique potential of digital distribution, as the pay what you want model could not really scale in a system that necessitated fulfillment and postage charges. With this almost “donation” type model there is no extra expense for the seller after the first sale, everything after that is essentially “profit.” And the possibility that the new readers exposed to the material may become fans, and go on to make further purchases, even print purchases in local comic books stores, only heightens the value of the Humble Bundle offering. We are likely to see a number of interesting comics based bundles in 2015 and we will learn if this kind of non-traditional sales can become a significant portion of publishers’ revenue, in much the same way digital has already established itself recently.

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6. St. Louis’s Star Clipper Comics to close

58867 10151457870084006 1506496155 n St. Louiss Star Clipper Comics to close

This is really sad. In a letter to customers, Ben and A.J. Trujillo, the owners of Star Clipepr COMis in Stalous, have announced the store is closing, with a liquidation sale beginning on Saturday. Opened in 1988, and going through three ownership changes, Star Clipper was always in front of retailing trends, and the Trujillos had definitely built up a great relationship with their community—as evidenced by the outpouring of support on their FB page—carrying a wide selection of comics for adults and kids, with a strong emphasis on female customers. Recent signings include Neal Adams, Cullen Bunn, Chris Samnee, Michael DeForge, Kate Leth, Tim Lane, Jeff Weigel, so you can see how eclectic their domain was.

As for the reasons for the closing, they are laid out in a excellent, detailed piece in St. Louis Magazine

“The decision’s been a long time coming,” Ben Trujillo confirmed yesterday. “It’s been bandied about for almost two years. The economy tanked in 2008, and we weathered that fairly well. There’ve been changes in the demographics of the area and in comic readers in general, which has made things unpredictable, as we buy products on an unreturnable basis. And with the social things happening in St. Louis, those’ve impacted business, as well. It’s sad to be the people who are shutting it down, but we feel a great sense of ownership and don’t necessarily see someone else’s custodianship here.”

To date, the news about Star Clipper’s end was kept tight, with only workers and, according to Trujillo, “a few select customers” knowing. (The Trujillos are the business’ third owners in 27 years.)

“Everyone’s been really disappointed and sad,” he said. “Everyone’s really disappointed. Surprisingly, a lot have said that they’ll stop reading comics. Or they’ve said that they’ll move to reading digitally. For a lot of people, it’s a shock. They see the store and have no idea what’s happening behind-the-scenes.

 
This is certainly a blowtogood comics and good comics customers in the St. Louis area. I had the great pleasure of working with Carol Denbow back in the Friends of Lulu Days, one of Star Clippers former owners, and a very ahead of her time retailer. I always thought of the shop as being out ahead of the curve. This store will be missed.

[Photo via the Star Clipper FB page]

6 Comments on St. Louis’s Star Clipper Comics to close, last added: 1/18/2015
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7. The Retailer’s View: This Time, It’s Personal

I was pacing the store shovelling mouthfuls of poutine into my mouth. The store’s owner and my replacement were going over initial order numbers for February, talking about comics I wouldn’t be around to sell. I wanted to interrupt on almost every line order to chime in with advice, but I know that wouldn’t be helpful. I know what to order if I’m around to sell comics. I don’t know what to order when I’m gone. This was why the poutine was important. It was the only thing keeping me from burbling over and offering opinions I had no reason to give.

sss 15 The Retailers View: This Time, Its Personal

Because: Canada.

It was a few days before Christmas, and I was having trouble letting go. I’d been at the store for over eight years, and had taken quite a bit of ownership over the culture of it, from the general atmosphere, right down to the ordering process. I wanted it to stay the same… but it can’t. It won’t. It shouldn’t.

Comic shops are like thumbprints, their make-up determined largely by parentage and circumstance. It starts at the root with the owner or manager of the shop, and the kind of experience that they want to build. While an owner should always endeavour to be inclusive when marketing to their customers, even the most delicate hand and even-tempered sales tactics give way to taste. People find it easier to market to those with similar tastes, and will sometimes do so without thought. For instance, when you hear the words “I’ve never read a comic before, what do you recommend?” – what is your first thought? What is your go-to book? I used to respond by asking what genres they were looking for, or what movies, tv shows or books they liked to read before moving onto the next step, but even then, personal bias would bubble up in my recommendations and would inevitably affect my sales and clientele.

Beyond that, there is a myriad of other things that affect the shape and feel of the store. Some of it comes down to what you’ll tolerate in the walls of your shop. What kind of jokes do you allow to pass? Is judgement passed on what is purchased, either positively or negatively? How active is the sales staff when you walk into the shop? Do they leave customers to their own devices? Do they say hello or offer a helping hand unprompted? When a customer offers up a fact, is it contested when it’s wrong? If so, how and when? Are female customers noted? Are they treated similarly to a male customer, or does the atmosphere change? The answers to all of these questions and hundreds more affect who walks through the doors of a shop, and with what frequency. It will affect everything – what is purchased, how it’s purchased, when, why and by whom.

Going further out from there, a store’s location will often affect what is sold almost as much as who is selling and how. At my old digs, we had three locations at one point, and each couldn’t have been more different from each other in terms of demographic. They were owned by the same three guys, but each sold product in vastly different ways. The stores located in more residential areas did far more in items like Pokemon cards and superhero comics than the one located close to one of the local universities, where Magic the Gathering and indie fare was more appreciated. By and large, the people who worked at any location for any long stretch of time fit in with the vision the owners had for the stores and what the location demanded almost naturally. Going against the grain didn’t mean you were a poor worker, but it did mean that you didn’t quite connect with the product and the customers, and that you eventually found your way to other opportunities.

identity crisis 1 cover 106071 667x1028 The Retailers View: This Time, Its Personal

Having an identity crisis can be hazardous to your shop’s health. (flips a table, yelling) METAPHORS!

A word of gentle advice to all those working at comic shops: it might be a pretty great gig, and you might enjoy what you’re selling, but always ask yourself if you fit. Are you constantly railing against the customer flow or the direction of the store? Is it causing audible distress or cognitive dissonance in the shop? If so… well, don’t quit, but at the very least, attempt to examine what you’re looking for. While shops can be changed, they have to be willing to change, and you have to be willing to put in the hard work to make it so. Almost everyone has a breaking point – even owners – and sometimes the best thing to do for the store and the industry in that situation is to recalibrate and reassess. That’s what I did.

At the end of 2014, I tendered my resignation as manager at my old shop. Since people have and will ask me, I didn’t leave because I don’t like the owners or the business or the people who frequent the store – I left because I felt as though I didn’t fit what the store wanted to be. Originally, the intent was to take some time away from the front lines and to just be a fan of the medium for a while – which probably begs the question, why am I still writing Retailer’s View columns. Whelp, the answer is simple: I took a look at stepping out from behind the counter, and decided that it felt too uncomfortable at this point in my life. I like standing behind a counter and slinging recommendations. I like shaping my corner of the comic book industry, and matching people with books they’re going to enjoy.

So I’m starting a new comic shop.

As you might have already guessed, the next few Retailer’s View articles will be about some of the hoops you have to jump through to get a store started. It’s not going to be a soup to nuts thing, as a lot of what I would have to say is specific to the time and place we’re setting things up. That said, you’re going to get a look at the retail experience from a place not often explored: right from the ground floor. Already, it’s a little strange and pretty scary, but armed with the knowledge I’ve amassed over the past eight plus years of working behind the counter and a whole lot of product, I think things will work out. Regardless, even during this state of gestation, I can see the importance of personality and location, and what it will mean for the new venture moving forward. It starts right at the beginning, in the very foundations, and it will inevitably grow from there. Hopefully in time, I’ll get to show you all what it becomes.

Until next time.

[Brandon Schatz has spent the last eight years working behind the comic book counter, and he will soon be starting a store of his own. In his spare time, he writes about the comics and culture. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson and at his website, Submetropolitan. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

8 Comments on The Retailer’s View: This Time, It’s Personal, last added: 1/13/2015
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8. ImageExpo 2015 in Depth

imageexpo logo4 300x190 ImageExpo 2015 in Depth

By Bruce Lidl

As has become a tradition at Image Comic’s semi-annual event, the announcements of upcoming titles came fast and furious today at ImageExpo. After a suitably rousing “state of the company” presentation by Image publisher Eric Stephenson, the stage at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center saw a procession of comic luminaries hyping new titles they promise will appear in 2015. On the evidence, Image will likely continue to rise in sales and market share, although the central roles of The Walking Dead and Saga in propelling those gaudy numbers remained an unspoken undercurrent to the show.

Stephenson trumpeted Image’s 2014 performance, which included “double digit year over year growth from 2013” (33% improvement in revenue, 25% in units), a 10.41% market share in the comics direct market and 16.48% market share for graphic novels in the book market. One area of somewhat smaller growth was digital, which Stephenson mentioned in passing and with a graphic that lacked scale or numbers. Despite its vagueness, the digital sales chart seemed to indicate roughly 10-15% growth from 2013. Surprisingly, however, the graph showed a slight dip in digital sales from 2012 to 2013, that was not commented on in the keynote, but Image’s Ron Richards told me outside the talk that it was merely a reflection of “The Walking Dead on TV” phenomenon, and not the natural growth of the category. To keep the digital sales momentum going into 2015, the second Image Humble Bundle was released prior to the opening of the ImageExpo, with a ton of Image backlist titles available digitally in the “pay what you want model.” In fact, Humble Bundle co-sponsored the ImageExpo this year, and has very high hopes for the bundle, particularly after it generated almost $90,000 in the first eight hours of the offer.

IMG 20150108 103958 300x225 ImageExpo 2015 in Depth

The new book announcements included original Image founder Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn books #250 and #251, with Spawn Resurrection #1 sandwiched in between. Declaring himself a “proud papa” of what Image had grown into over the last 23 years, MacFarlane refused to cede all the creative acclaim to his younger Image colleagues. He teased Savior, a a new title depicting the arrival of a Christ-like figure in today’s world. Recognizing a reputation for erratic release schedules, MacFarlane flashed an slide with eight issues worth of pages already completed.

James Robinson made a cameo appearance to announce his title Heaven and to reassure that Airboy is still on the way. Brandon Graham and Emma Rios told the audience about a couple of their collaborations, including 8house and Island, the later a large format “heavy metal” anthology that will include a number of rotating contributors. Emma Rios also brought out Kelly Sue DeConnick to update their plans for Pretty Deadly’s second arc which takes the title’s setting from the American West to the battlefields of World War I, and is expected to arrive in September.

Unlike last year’s event, ImageExpo 2015 highlighted a number of female creators, with Emi Lenox following Rios and DeConnick on stage to announce her autobiographical project, Tadaima, about her visit to her mother’s Japan. Lenox also talked about her collaboration with Jeff Lemire, Plutona, a Stand By Me influenced book about children discovering the corpse of a super-hero, . Other female creators announcing new books at ImageExpo included Marjorie Liu with Monstress and Alex De Campi with No Mercy, the latter scheduled for April.

Jeff Lemire returned to discuss his new book with Scott Snyder, AD: After Death which takes a deep, conceptual look at what the world would be like when “death is cured” and people can live forever. Brian Buccellato intrigued with his Kickstarter-originated Son of the Devil, an exploration of deadly cults and their legacies, and Eric Canete and Jonathan Tsuei discussed Run Love Kill, a project that started over a decade ago, but will now arrive with “robots, dinosaurs and ass-kicking.” The dynamic British duo of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie will be continuing their successful Wicked+Divine series into a third arc with a number of guest artists, and they promised Phonogram 3 for August 2015. Gillen will also be writing The Ludocrats, with art by David LaFuente for Image this year. Chip Zdarsky “crashed” the proceedings in an unannounced surprise appearance to hype his Howard the Duck title (for Marvel), but really to announce Katara, a sci-fi comedy title done with Kagan McLeod, and just to generally lighten up the festivities in his inimitable Zdarsky-style.

Another surprise appearance proved impossible for Darwyn Cooke to arrange, but he announced via audio message his first wholly creator owned title, Revengeance, a crime thriller with Mickey Spillane influences set in the 1980s. Following the Cooke audio portion, Skottie Young spoke of his new title, I Hate Fairyland, about a girl trapped in a fantasy wonderland for thirty years. The tone of the title is probably best expressed by its original working title, Fuck Fairyland.

WeStandonGuard 194x300 ImageExpo 2015 in Depth

While last year’s ImageExpo felt somewhat like the Robert Kirkman show, the explosive success of Saga in 2014 made Brian K. Vaughn’s appearance a natural highlight of this year’s event. In addition to that book, Vaughn will be producing two more books in 2015 for Image, the first entitled We Stand on Guard, a limited series positing a US invasion of Canada with giant robots, drawn by Steve Skroce, and Paper Girls, an on-going series with young newspaper deliverers as the protagonists, drawn by Cliff Chiang, and referred to by Vaughn as “his most personal and weird writing.”

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9. Must buy: Economics of Digital Comics by Todd Allen

full dpi front cover Must buy: Economics of Digital Comics by Todd Allen

Disclosure: Todd Allen is a long-time contributor to this site, so read the following as advanced log-rolling if you will.

That said, the book he kickstarted over the summer, Economics of Digital Comics is out. I have an early digital copy and this is really a book everyone in the comics business should read, especially people going into various digital models, from crowdfunding to subscription to pay what you want. Allen casts a cynical eye on most of this stuff, and runs numbers to show what works and what doesn’t. But he also looks at print costs, and the economies of other channels to give a strong overview of what we talk about when we talk about selling comics in 2014. The book has new interviews with digital players and statistics on what webcomics earn from advertising, how much it costs to print books, what the big players take out of various delivery methods and more. All footnoted. And an introduction by Mark Waid, who has become something of the spokesman for Generation Digital.

I’ll have some more to say about specific parts of the books (including some that I disagree with) but this is definitely a conversation starter for what I suspect will be a very long talk about making money making comics in 2015, as a lot of people look at the most optimistic outlooks and weigh them against reality.

And here’s where to buy it:

In print — $19.99, or digital $9.99

Amazon/Kindle:
B&N 

Or just go DIY with Gumroad in various digital formats (and yes the book talks about all of these) for $9.99

Interactive PDF 
ePub3 for iBooks 
ePub3 for Kobo 
ePub2 for basic eReaders

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10. Rough calculations suggests 2% of millennials read comics

megahex fc Rough calculations suggests 2% of millennials read comics

Millennials, can’t live with ‘em, can’t get a vanilla soy macchiatto without ‘em. Among the many charges levied against these lazy, disengaged kids is that they ever grow up and read too many comic books. BUT IS THAT TRUE? Commentator Kevin Drum—who I normally adore—does some back of the envelope calculations and concludes that only 2% of millennials are comics readers. For the numerically inclines out there (translation: Torsten) here are his envelope calculations:

1. Diamond Comic Distributors sold about 84 million comics in 2013. Diamond is damn near a monopoly, but it’s not a total monopoly, and that number is only for the top 300 titles anyway. So let’s round up to 100 million.

2. That’s about 8 million per month. Some comic fans buy two or three titles a month, others buy 20 or 30. A horseback guess suggests that the average fan buys 5-10 per month.

3. That’s maybe 1.5 million regular fans, give or take. If we figure that two-thirds are Millennials, that’s a million readers.

4. The total size of the Millennial generation is 70 million. But let’s be generous and assume that no one cares if teenagers and college kids are still reading comics. Counting only those over 22, the adult Millennial population is about 48 million.

5. So that means about 2 percent of adult Millennials are regular comic book readers. (If you just browse through your roomie’s stash sporadically without actually buying comics, you don’t count.)

As back of the envelope stuff goes, this feels…pretty accurate. There are a bunch of comics distro sources not included in even the rough diamond estimate, but even that would only boost it to 3%.

However, my own extremely solipsistic personal observations indicate that even if people in their 20s and 30s don’t purchase so many comics, they sure know about them. Does a single copy of Ghost World or Hyperbole and a Half purchased count as being a comics reader?

15 Comments on Rough calculations suggests 2% of millennials read comics, last added: 12/30/2014
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11. The Retailer’s View // Top Sellers and Bottom Dwellers

A couple of news bits and a personal announcement to tackle this week, so let’s get right to it.

MILLION AIRS

About a week ago, Marvel started to make a big deal over Star Wars #1 eclipsing 1,000,000 pre-orders from various retail outlets. While the company hinted at some of this quantity coming from less traditional sources, the number is still quite impressive, boasting the best direct market numbers for a single printing of a single issue in over twenty years. Despite all of the headache inducing rabble that I’m about to detail, that’s a number everyone involved with the creation, sales and marketing of the series should be proud of.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pound my head against my keyboard while I detail the variant structure of this particular release.

STAR WARS CHRISTOPHER PARTY var1 676x1028 The Retailers View // Top Sellers and Bottom Dwellers

Check it out, it’s Bucky O’Hare you guys. Shut up, it is too.

As you’ve probably heard by now, there are an impressive amount of variant covers being produced for this comic. To start, Marvel tossed a grand total of 13 wide-market variants on top of the regular comic for all retailers to order and obtain. These 13 books had qualifiers that ranged from “1 for every 15 copies ordered” to “1 for every 500 copies ordered”. Four of them required retailers to exceed 200% of their Original Sin #8 numbers in order to get any books in – which is probably the clearest indication of where Marvel wanted the book to be in terms of sales. Original Sin #8 clocked in at an estimated 90,478 copies sold, which means they were probably aiming at the 200,000 as a “worst case scenario”.

These alone wouldn’t have brought Star Wars #1 even close to the 1,000,000 mark – so where does all that extra push come from? Many are pointing in the vague direction of alternative distribution and awaiting news on what nerd box corporation sprung for a few hundred thousand copies – and while that’s probably part of the answer, a good chunk is also coming from the retailer exclusive variants Marvel offered retailers.

In one of their missives to the retail community, Marvel let it be known that any retailer or retail group could have their own variants produced. These variants would be completely unique and would potentially utilize some big name talent to create a unique image that would appear on a cover exclusive to that retailer. The catch? You had to order at least 3,000 copies and order 200% more of the regular cover than you did for Original Sin #8. It appears quite a few retailers have taken them up on this offer, as the total of variants floating out are currently sitting at 57. Now, some of these are black and white “sketch” variants of the retail exclusive variants, which you could seemingly produce as little as 1,500 copies of, but the point remains: Marvel went full variant crazy when pushing this book. Will it work for them? In the short term, of course. They’re going to have one of their biggest January’s in a long time thanks to Star Wars alone, probably, and there will almost assuredly be enough product on the shelves to meet whatever demand might arise. In the long term? When a company digs this deep into variants and qualifiers, I always worry about the long lingering after effects. The practice of asking retailers to potentially overextend themselves to chase rare items almost always ends with product chocking out storage space and back issue bins. It manipulates the regulatory curve of supply and demand, and takes cash on hand and turns it into dead weight that’s harder to turn over, both of which can and will result in various levels of hardships. Too much of this and a store, a company, or an industry breaks. And wouldn’t that be fun.

FAILURE TO LAUNCH

Last week, the DC solicitations for March revealed a culling for the company, and the internet had some words about it. Because of course it did. The company is heading into their big move across the country with quite a few stagnant books and a line-wide crossover eating up their publishing schedule. In short, it was the right call to dust a large portion of their books in order to arrive back in June with a refocused creative direction. That said, the sheer volume of titles on the chopping block still makes this feel like a defeat of some kind.

ConvergencePromo 1200 545ac8e14697f7.11375445 1000x540 The Retailers View // Top Sellers and Bottom Dwellers

What DC needs here is for their PR department to pick up the copious amount of slack that’s roped on the floor. I know they’re already having a hard time convincing people that Convergence is going to be a big, important thing with the structure they chose, but they really shouldn’t be spending too much time and effort on that. Convergence is a crossover series, and it’s been designed as a two-month respite from The New 52 universe. Each and every one of their 40 two part minis seem to nudge the reader in the ribs and say, “Hey, remember when this was happening?” – and it’s going to do very little in the way of drawing a wide audience. June, on the other hand, stands a chance to be spectacular, and the company should be teasing it now. As it stands, DC looks like it’s flailing as a large chunk of their newly launched books limp to an end, and others that were a bit long in the tooth drop along side them. They need to come out and say this is all in service of something, or else people are going to run with a less positive narrative. It’s all about perception, and right now, DC is losing the battle. Here’s hoping they win the war.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE

As of December 31st, I will no longer be the manager of a comic shop. After spending a little over 8 years at Wizard’s Comics, I’m moving on to a different role within this great industry. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what that is yet – but I thought it would be pertinent to let you all know of this change, as it will clearly effect what I write for this site. A hint regarding the future: while I won’t be a store manager, I will still be writing similar articles about the industry for Comics Beat, and they will start on January 12th. You might be surprised. You probably won’t be.

Until then, you’ll probably see me contribute the odd news post or opinion piece here or there, but otherwise, I will be busy putting together the next phase of my life – so if we don’t talk until then, have a fantastic holiday season!

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12. Marvel leads November Diamond sales with Spider-Men

Amazing Spider Man 9 Marvel leads November Diamond sales with Spider MenMarvel continued to dominate the top 10 and both units and dollars according to November sales figures released today by Diamond. Sales for the four-Wednesday week were down from five week October, but comics are up for the year overall, with periodical sales statistically flat down .11%. Dolalrs are up, but so are cover prices.

Image continued to have double digit sales and units, and the perennials Waking Dead and Saga were joined by the first collection of Gillen & McKelvie’s The Wicked and the Divine.

Spider-Men from across the multiverse are brought together to defeat the psychic vampire Morlun who hunts them in Marvel Comics’ Amazing Spider-Man #9, the first chapter of Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel’s “Spider-Verse” storyline and November 2014’s best-selling comic book according to information provided by Diamond Comic Distributors, the world’s largest distributor of comics, graphic novels, and pop culture merchandise.

With eight titles in the top ten, Marvel Comics was November’s top publisher, leading in both the dollar share (34.88%) and unit share (37.82%) categories. DC Entertainment had two titles in the top ten, led by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman #36 at #3, and was second in both market share categories with a dollar share of 27.47% and a unit share of 31.64%. Image Comics had a strong November as well, topping ten percent in both dollar share (10.62%) and unit share (11.06%). IDW Publishing was fourth with a 5.65% dollar share, and Dark Horse Comics was fifth with a 4.85% dollar share. Overall, November’s comic book and graphic novel sales were up by 5.47% over 2013 and year-to-date sales are up 4.52% but down by 18.40% from October due to four shipping weeks compared to October’s five.

dollar share Marvel leads November Diamond sales with Spider Men unit share Marvel leads November Diamond sales with Spider Men

TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS

PUBLISHER DOLLAR

SHARE

UNIT

SHARE

MARVEL COMICS 34.88% 37.82% DC ENTERTAINMENT 27.47% 31.64% IMAGE COMICS 10.62% 11.06% IDW PUBLISHING 5.65% 4.53% DARK HORSE COMICS 4.85% 3.58% DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 2.84% 2.54% BOOM! STUDIOS 2.73% 2.68% RANDOM HOUSE 1.20% 0.49% VIZ MEDIA 0.97% 0.36% EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS LTD 0.77% 0.18% OTHER NON-TOP 10 8.01% 5.13%

NEW TITLES SHIPPED

PUBLISHER COMICS SHIPPED GRAPHIC NOVELS SHIPPED MAGAZINES SHIPPED TOTAL

SHIPPED

DC COMICS 95 29 0 124 MARVEL COMICS 76 37 0 113 IMAGE COMICS 74 13 0 87 IDW PUBLISHING 46 27 0 73 DARK HORSE COMICS 36 27 0 63 BOOM ENTERTAINMENT 41 6 0 47 DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 33 10 0 43 VIZ LLC 0 31 0 31 RANDOM HOUSE 4 24 0 28 EAGLEMOSS 0 0 7 7 OTHER NON-TOP 10 94 97 25 216

 


COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS

  DOLLARS UNITS
NOVEMBER 2014 VS. OCTOBER 2014
COMICS -22.73% -22.12%
GRAPHIC NOVELS -8.49% -3.21%
TOTAL COMICS/GN -18.40% -20.73%
NOVEMBER 2014 VS. NOVEMBER 2013
COMICS 5.47% 5.84%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 14.44% 21.00%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 8.36% 7.03%
YEAR-TO-DATE 2014 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2013
COMICS 3.80% -0.11%
GRAPHIC NOVELS 6.16% 6.52%
TOTAL COMICS/GN 4.52% 0.39%

 

TOP 10 COMIC BOOKS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #9 $4.99 SEP140823-M MAR
2 ALL-NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 $3.99 SEP140810-M MAR
3 BATMAN #36 $3.99 SEP140247-M DC
4 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10 $3.99 SEP140828-M MAR
5 SPIDER-WOMAN #1 $3.99 SEP140833-M MAR
6 THOR #2 $3.99 SEP140857-M MAR
7 SUPERIOR IRON MAN #1 $3.99 SEP140798-M MAR
8 AVENGERS AND X-MEN: AXIS #4 $3.99 SEP140771-M MAR
9 AVENGERS AND X-MEN: AXIS #5 $3.99 SEP140774-M MAR
10 JUSTICE LEAGUE #36 $3.99 SEP140185-M DC


TOP 10 GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 22: A NEW BEGINNING TP (MR) $14.99 SEP140657 IMA
2 TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE VOLUME 1 HC $22.99 JUL140221 DC
3 SAGA DELUXE EDITION VOLUME 1 HC $49.99 SEP140591 IMA
4 THE WICKED & THE DIVINE VOL. 1: THE FAUST ACT TP (MR) $9.99 SEP140684 IMA
5 SAGA VOLUME 1 TP (MR) $9.99 AUG120491 IMA
6 SERENITY: LEAVES ON WIND HC $19.99 JUL140058 DAR
7 AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER VOL. 9: RIFT PART 3 TP $10.99 JUL140112 DAR
8 BATMAN ETERNAL VOLUME 1 TP (N52) $39.99 SEP140302 DC
9 THE WAKE HC (MR) $24.99 JUL140281 DC
10 DEADPOOL VOLUME 6: ORIGINAL SIN TP $17.99 SEP140932 MAR

TOP 10 BOOKS

RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 MINECRAFT: OFFICIAL MOJANG ESSENTIAL HANDBOOK HC $7.99 FEB142549 SCH
2 MINECRAFT: OFFICIAL MOJANG REDSTONE HANDBOOK HC $7.99 FEB142550 SCH
3 DOCTOR WHO: THE OFFICIAL ANNUAL 2015 $12.99 JAN148356 PEN
4 LEGEND OF ZELDA: HYRULE HISTORIA HC $34.99 SEP120055 DAR
5 DRAWING BEAUTIFUL WOMEN: THE FRANK CHO

METHOD SC (MR)

$19.95 AUG141888 PUB 6 THE ART OF DRAGON AGE: INQUISITION HC $39.99 JUN140054 DAR 7 THE OVERSTREET GUIDE TO GRADING COMICS SC $24.95 SEP141457 GEM 8 THE ART OF ROBERT E. MCGINNIS HC $34.95 SEP141849 RAN 9 POPULAR SKULLTURE: SKULL MOTIFS HC $19.99 JUL140131 DAR 10 THE WORLD ACCORDING TO THE JOKER HC $24.95 JUL141650 PUB

TOP 10 TOYS

RANK DESCRIPTION ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 BATMAN ANIMATED: THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES BATMAN FIGURE JUN140313 DC
2 DC COMICS: GOTHAM CITY GARAGE: CATWOMAN STATUE MAY140419 DC
3 BATMAN ANIMATED: BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES CATWOMAN FIG JUN140316 DC
4 DC COMICS: STARFIRE BISHOUJO STATUE APR142091 KOT
5 VOLTRON 30TH-ANNIVERSARY LION GIFT SET JAN141950 TOY
6 THE WALKING DEAD: RICK GRIMES RESIN STATUE AUG140714 TMP
7 BATMAN 75TH-ANNIVERSARY ACTION FIGURE 4-PACK SET 1 MAY140418 DC
8 THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: CALL TO ARMS STATUE “YEAR OF THE HORSE EDITION” JUL140300 DC
9 BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM: POISON IVY STATUE JUN140323 DC
10 MARVEL COMICS: AVENGERS NOW: THOR ARTFX+ STATUE MAY142513 KOT


TOP 10 GAMES

RANK DESCRIPTION ITEM CODE VENDOR
1 DC HEROCLIX: THE FLASH BOOSTER BRICK AUG142838 NEC
2 MONOPOLY: THE WALKING DEAD SURVIVAL EDITION OCT128266 USA
3 DC HEROCLIX: THE FLASH FOIL BOOSTERS AUG142839 NEC
4 ADVENTURE TIME CARD WARS PACK 2: BMO VS. LADY RAINICORN APR148198 CRY
5 FIREFLY: YAHTZEE COLLECTORS EDITION JUL142616 USA
6 DC HEROCLIX: THE FLASH: ROGUES FAST FORCES 6-PACK AUG142840 NEC
7 MAGIC THE GATHERING TCG: KHANS OF TARKIR BOOSTER PACKS AUG142826 WZK
8 GAME OF THRONES PLAYING CARDS JAN120128 DAR
9 MARVEL DICE MASTERS: UNCANNY X-MEN JUN142654 NEC
10 D&D ICONS OF THE REALMS: TIAMAT PREMIUM FIGURE SEP142618 NEC

 

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13. Marvel confirms 1 million in sales for Star Wars #1

mvswStarWars001 Warp9 Marvel confirms 1 million in sales for Star Wars #1

Marvel’s svp of sales David Gabriel has  confirmed that STAR WARS #1 will sell 1 million copies.  And already my inbox is jammed with missives from Brandon Schatz and John Jackson Miller.

It doens’t appear that Loot Crate is part of the reason for the record sales. However, at least 38 variant covers and a switch to some new distribution outlets:

We’ve seen Marvel explore new ways of getting comics exposed to potential new readers. Everything from strong retailer support, to unconventional methods of sale like LootCrate & GameStop. Can we expect new and different outlets for the comic to be sold through?

There are a number of new outlets that we’re working with here in terms of the folks purchasing and selling a large number of exclusive covers, which in the end means that this very large number of comics will be sold in places where we haven’t necessarily had comic sales. We’re confident we’ll have lots of new fans reading issue #1. And the great thing about this for all our comic retailer friends is that they’ll be able to sell those new fans the second, third, fourth issues and on and on.

 

Gabriel went on to say that even without all the variants, this would have been a best selling issue:

I can safely say that even without the massive variant plan on this first issue, the numbers on the regular cover alone would make this the highest selling debut of 2015. When you add in the astounding numbers from the variants you’ve got one huge launch, unseen in the direct market for two decades or more! And I should also give a quick thank you to all those retailers who are showing the support for this launch and the launch parties. They’re all really taking this to new levels and making history with this issue.

MIller has some context and thoughts here.

I have written a lot about the history of Star Warscomics in the past (including having written quite a few of them myself), and the million-copy mark bears a particular historical importance for the line.Star Wars #1 in 1977 was the first comic book since Dell‘s Uncle Scrooge in 1960 to top a million copies sold. Star Wars #1 did that in 1977 not through its initial sale to newsstands, but also through a newsstand reprint and at least three waves of bagged reprints offered to department stores through Western Publishing‘s Whitman arm. Sales of the bagged editions of the movie adaptation were so strong, according to former Marvel Editor in Chief Jim Shooter, that Western temporarily suspended its program of printing variant editions for other Marvel titles to focus solely on Star Wars reprints in late 1977. At least the first three issues of the 1977 series all would have topped a million copies, and possibly more.

Just throwing in y own two cents, places where these comics might be distributed:

Disney theme parks

Target

Wal-Mart

Toys ‘r’ Us

…and so on. Just guesses but all could contribute to the massive sales. Comics at theme parks have a long tortured history; when I was at Disney Comics 20 eyars ago many thought this would have saved the line, but stores didn’t like replenishing small budget items that had to be moved every month. Also, giveaway comics were often discarded in trash bins….although that mind set may have changed since then.

I hope we do find out more about where and how this comic is being sold. No matter how it worked out, it’s a real achievement for Marvel. COngrats to Jason Aaron, John Cassaday, Laura Martin and editor Jordan B. White on the huge commercial success.  10801823 929621647055946 5740685589630367813 n Marvel confirms 1 million in sales for Star Wars #1

11 Comments on Marvel confirms 1 million in sales for Star Wars #1, last added: 12/12/2014
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14. ComicsPRO investigates former board member over improper use of funds

headerlogo ComicsPRO investigates former board member over improper use of funds

Retailer organization ComicsPRO has been a major influence in the industry over the last few years, working with publishers and holding a yearly conference that is widely thought to be one o fth emost inrpiting of the year. However, how it seems a former Board member is under investigation for possible misuse of funds, as Matthew Price reports. ComcisPRO just posted the following statement on their Facebook page:

ComicsPRO, the Comic Book Industry retail trade organization, is currently investigating the possible misuse or misappropriation of corporate funds by a former Board member. Thomas Gaul, the organization President, was recently made aware of the potential abuse. He moved to quickly inform the Board of Directors of the issue and accepted the resignation of the board member in question. The board is investigating the extent and degree of any misappropriation of organization funds, the effects it may have on the organization, and what the organization can do to recover the funds, if anything.

The Board of Directors is fully committed to uncovering all of the facts and circumstances surrounding these events in an open and transparent manner and, should it become necessary, will cooperate with authorities as the situation unfolds.

Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, there is no expected impact to the current staffing and programming of the organization.

Developing.

1 Comments on ComicsPRO investigates former board member over improper use of funds, last added: 12/4/2014
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15. RIP Brian Jacoby of Secret Headquarters

B1yp80RIAAIjUls RIP Brian Jacoby of Secret Headquarters

I’m devastated to learn of the death of Brian Jacoby, the owner of Secret Headquarters, a comics shop in Tallahassee, FL. Jacoby was admitted to the hospital last week with blood clots in both lungs and a leg, and he died suddenly on Thanksgiving night. Jacoby tweeted his health experiences and hospitalization on his Twitter account—painful reading now, but his humor even in illness is evident. The above photo is taken from his Twitter account.

Jacoby is survived by a brother and a 10-year old daughter.

Jacoby was a regular—perhaps even daily—poster here at the Beat, always with a ready opinion on any of the business topics I brought up here. His viewpoints often were the opposite of whatever I was arguing, but he offered his insights graciously and always contributed to the conversation with new information—an all too rare ability in today’s contentious times. I’ll really miss his voice.

A memorial for Jacoby will be held tomorrow:

My sincere condolences to Brian’s friends and family.

6 Comments on RIP Brian Jacoby of Secret Headquarters, last added: 12/2/2014
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16. Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books

Well, sort of. It’s well known that some used book prices on Amazon are just kind of…loony. Take for instance, Monsters Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books by Ken Dahl, an excellent book about a guy who thinks he has herpes by Ken Dahl, published by Secret Acres but now out of print. (A new edition is planned for next year.) In the meantime, you can get a used copy for a mere $394.94… or brand new for $11,964.08.

$11,964.08

Is this real? I doubt it. I know most of these books mentioned below can be found placidly waiting in bargain boxes at cons. Paging Frank Santoro!

I know a lot of old manga books do legit go for some high prices. For instance, TokyoPop’s Rave Master (4,5,6,7,8,9) Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books in a nice set, goes for $168 in library binding (that’s hardcover) and
but $8,038.21 used. And they wonder why people turn to piracy! 


Some other pricey old books: Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 5 (v. 5) Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books = $499.00

Julie Doucet & Michel Go W/DVD Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books – $173.16

The recent Passion of Gengoroh Tagame Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books by now defunct Picturebox is listed at $226.73 used, and $598.77 new. I know this book does have a loyal fetish following so…supply and demand.

Another Picturebox book, C.F.: Powr Mastrs Vol. 1  Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books by Fort Thunder alum CF is listed at $134.62 used, $154.47 new. Glad I saved my copies!

TeratoidHeights Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books

Digging around some more long gone publishers, I found this from Highwater, Mat Brinkman’s Teratoid Heights Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books at $220.00. That was a great book!

And then there’s Buenaventura Press, which published Souvlaki Circus by finnish artist Amanda Vähämäki Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books $265.35 used, or $331.68 new/

Oddly, the book that you’d think would be the most valuable, the huge epic Kramers Ergot 7 Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books goes for a mere $140.00 used and only $112.50 new! The retail price was $125 so this is a bargain. Some people in the comments mention copies going for $1000 back in the day—the print run was destroyed by mold under mysterious circumstances—but obviously now its just another large, beautiful object to keep around the house.

Not just out of business publishers. I checked Dark Horse and found The Hellboy Collection: The Story So Far Volumes 1-7 Bundle Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books going for $2,881.50. I used to have all these but I think I sold them to the Strand for $20. =(

The moral of the story? Never throw anything out! I don’t!

6 Comments on Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books, last added: 11/28/2014
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17. Diamond Retailer Summit returns to Baltimore in 2015

diamondfl49fh Diamond Retailer Summit returns to Baltimore in 2015

After several years travelling around the country—three years in Chicago and then earlier this year in Las Vegas—Diamond is holding its 2015 Retailer Summit in Baltimore from September 23-25. The dates not only piggy back on the Baltimore Comic-Con but bring the show close to Diamond’s Timonium, MD headquarters.

It’s a pretty good double for everyone—the laid back and friendly Baltimore show segues nicely into the retail-focused programming of the summit. And there will be a LOT to talk about, as we keep saying. Here’s the announcement:

Diamond Comic Distributors has announced that its 2015 Retailer Summit for comic book specialty retailers will take place September 23-25, 2015 in Baltimore, MD.

“We’re excited to bring the Summit back to Diamond’s home turf of Charm City,” said Roger Fletcher, Diamond’s VP-Sales & Marketing. “We had a great event in Las Vegas last year and we hope to exceed that in terms of growth and retailer satisfaction with the 2015 Summit.”

Diamond also announced that it will partner with Baltimore Comic-Con, which will be held right after the Summit from September 25-27, to share marketing and strategic initiatives for the combined events. Baltimore Comic-Con’s Exhibit Hall will serve as the Summit’s Exhibit Hall during special “Retailer Only” hours.

“Our 15th annual show in 2014 was our biggest show to date,” said Marc Nathan, promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con. “It’s only going to get bigger and better. Baltimore Comic-Con, coupled with Diamond’s Retailer Summit, should make for one of the best regional comic-con shows ever held.”

Now in its 13th year, Diamond’s Retailer Summit is the leading annual event for comic book specialty retailers to meet with publishers and vendors, and come together with fellow retailers to discuss the industry and their businesses. Top publishers such as Dark Horse Comics, DC Entertainment, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, and Marvel Comics come and share exciting new projects, while retailers get to network and learn about new business practices to help them succeed and thrive in today’s retailing environment.

Additional details and registration for the industry’s annual retailer event will be announced in early 2015. Publishers and vendors who would like to sponsor or exhibit at the Baltimore Comic-Con should contact Chris McClelland (registrar@baltimorecomiccon.com) now for additional information. 

 

0 Comments on Diamond Retailer Summit returns to Baltimore in 2015 as of 11/20/2014 1:24:00 PM
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18. The Retailer’s View // A Confluence of Events (Part Two)

With both Marvel and DC running big, somewhat vague multiverse spanning crossovers this year, I decided to take some time to go over what retailers would be looking for from both of these series. Last week (a day before more details were released about the event), I went over the shape of Convergence and what it could do to move the sales needle. Today, I’m hitting Secret Wars.

Age of Ultron vs Marvel Zombies 2015 The Retailers View // A Confluence of Events (Part Two)

SECRET WARS

While Convergence is an event being built out of near necessity, Secret Wars is an event that’s emerging from years of planning on the part of Marvel and writer Jonathan Hickman. Both approaches have their pros and cons. While I’m really enjoying Hickman’s work on the Avengers line, it was never anything I would be able to hand to a new reader easily – and his work on the title has only gotten more complex. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, especially when you have several titles on the stands that new readers can easily gravitate to like Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and Hawkeye – but when it comes to the big event, you want to try and make that thing as accessible as possible. DC can theoretically do this with Convergence by structuring their event as a low-threshold buy-in, featuring two part stories that exist without too much connective tissue. Marvel could theoretically do this, but there’s very little known about the actual structure of Secret Wars beyond the fact that it will be impossible to escape if you’re interested in their line.

The unfortunate part for people who are afraid or intimidated by it is, if you’re following Marvel Comics, you’re not going to be able to get away from it. This is a profound and huge moment in the history of Marvel, and it’s going to reverberate throughout the entire line, except maybe Star Wars.

-Tom Brevoort, from his interview at CBR on Friday

On the one hand, this sounds cool an ambitious – especially given the fact that many Marvel editors and creators have stated Secret Wars will effect Marvel through other forms of media as well. A project on that scale would be a cool thing to be a part of, even as a spectator.

On the other hand, an event with so much connective tissue also breeds a high level of incomprehension. While it’s all well and good to market to the hardcore audience every now and then, it’s long term murder to build a story that only your die-hards are going to appreciate the whole shape of. Built without some finesse, this event could be a very cool way to lose a lot of interest in your product. Built correctly, however, and you could turn a lot of casual fans into die-hards.

The first thing I would do, is have the event function on it’s own. Yes, it’s the culmination of a few years worth of storytelling, but keep the ideas at the core relatively simple. At first blush, it looks as though all the reality crashing that’s been happening across Hickman’s Avengers books will come to a head as all realities meld into one, saving everyone briefly before human nature takes over and territorial fights start to erupt. The key to running this would be to address the circumstances, but keep things simple. Speaking from experience, you can kill a person’s interest in something by explaining it to death before they have a chance to read it. Give people two sentences of description, and include a bit of meat on the bones to whet the palate. If they want to bite, they might go back and explore how things got to where they are, and if they don’t, you’re not implying that they have a big knowledge gap that they have to fill. I would go with a simple declarative, “realities have condensed on themselves, and it’s up to us to keep the peace”. Boom. Concept dropped, with the slight implication of history for those who are interested in going back to check things out.

x men 92 111328 The Retailers View // A Confluence of Events (Part Two)

Beyond that, the structure of the thing will have to be addressed. The main event should be self contained, requiring nobody to push out into other series to grab the whole context. Any other series that push out from there (presumably, the ones that feature specific realities as teased by Marvel over the past few weeks) should be able to function on their own, and be enjoyed on their own accord. Any ongoings that tie into this structure should be able to function as well. What I expect is for something akin to the original Secret Wars series to happen. One month, things are normal, and the next, Spider-Man is running around in a new costume, and people are left wondering until the facts are slowly revealed. This would point new readers back to the big series for more information, but again, if played right, will not require them to do so.

What I want to be true? Marvel pulling a bit of a fast one, pretending as though they are following the original Secret Wars formula by having different realities “infect” certain titles, before returning to a slightly altered states-quo when the event is wrapped. It would play beautifully into a culture of overly specific fan service, offering people a glimpse into realities and eras that the wish never went away, while not fundamentally changing the line in an irreparable way. Note: this seems to be what DC is doing with the two issue minis, offering people a glimpse into realities where Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon get married, where Stephanie Brown remained as Batgirl, where Wally West exists as he did with his family, and so forth and so on. Fan service bait, before a reversion of sorts to a structure that might not be pleasing to all, but cohesive enough to function on the larger scale both companies need.

In the end, I know the shapes of all of these events has already been decided, and that my natterings will have absolutely no effect on the shape of anything. That said, I always think it’s good for companies to take into account structures that would fit the needs of retailers in addition to their budgets, sales goals, and creative input. While retailers can be dragged along a certain amount, at some point, they’ll either wise up, or go out of business, and both options are lose lose for publishers. Build these events to welcome as many people as possible, market the hell out of it, and you’ll do just fine. Allow ambition and sales goals to dictate structure, and you could very well end up with a universe breaking event. That will sour retailers and fans alike on the aftermath – and in an industry built on the perpetual second act, that’s not a good thing.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Is there more? Maybe. I’d still like to hear what you have to say about Convergence and Secret Wars. What do you like from events. What do you want from events? Comment below, and I might address them in a third part to this series.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

4 Comments on The Retailer’s View // A Confluence of Events (Part Two), last added: 11/19/2014
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19. The Valkyries: secret warrior women of comics shops

tumblr ndidos5yh71sdg28uo5 500 The Valkyries: secret warrior women of comics shops

There was a time not too long ago when you could fit all the “women in comics” at a big table in a coffee shop. Now there are more than 300 women who work in comics shops ALONE. That’s the membership of The Valkyries, a private organization for female comics retail employees. And it turns out the group has been instrumental in promoting a couple of books that have had great success this year, namely Saga and Lumberjanes. Janelle Asselin interviews group founder Kate Leth for all the details:

CA: One thing I think people don’t necessarily understand about the Valkyries is that it goes beyond a support network – you actually have an effect on the way shops are run and the ultimate consumer experience. I know that there are a few books the group has specifically supported – can you tell me about what you do when you think a book needs your advocacy?

KL: Sometimes it’s that a book might need our support, and other times it’s just titles we love. Our first “campaign” was for the Lying Cat t-shirts, from Saga. It happened really organically, because we all realized we had pre-ordered them, and so we decided to wear them on the same day and post photos. It became a way to show the comics world who we were, and what we were about – supporting the titles and creators we love. Saga doesn’t need our help, god knows, but we wanted to make a statement on how much we appreciate such an amazing title with a female artist and great, diverse female characters.

When we did Lumberday (we all wore plaid and tweeted photos for Lumberjanes) that was more of a push. The book is indie, and creator-owned, and we wanted people to check it out. That book was extra-special to the Valkyries because of the all-female cast not only in the book, but making it. We all bought those Batgirl boots, too. We wanted to show how excited we were that DC was taking note of and tailoring a title to their younger female audience. Also, those boots rule.

As suggested, Saga doesn’t exactly need a ton of support, but Lumberjanes has been a genuine sensation this year, and is now Boom!’s best selling non-licensed title, with more than 10K copies per issue sold.

There have been a few other retailer organizations that worked directly with creators to promote their work, but several have dwindled. (ComicsPRO remains strong, of course, but it seems to work directly with publishers most of the time.) The Valkyries seems set up to be a fantastic retail asset:

CA: Do you work with creators at all – beyond the breakfasts and general book-selling – in your work as Valkyries? Like, do you ever give creators advice or receive information from them to promote books?
KL: Yeah, we have! We do get advance copies and promos from time to time. We actually have a girl in the group now who manages all of the previews and promotes them when we get them. We’ve had some creators run things by the Valkyries for feedback, which is really, really cool.
CA: If a creator wanted to do that, how would they go about contacting the group?
KL: Send an email to bewarethevalkyries@gmail.com! We’re always on the lookout for things that are lady-friendly, all-ages, and/or feature things like LGBTQ+ and POC representation.

You can learn more about The Valkyries at their tumblr.

2 Comments on The Valkyries: secret warrior women of comics shops, last added: 10/29/2014
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20. The Retailer’s View // Scheduling Issues

Navigating monthly orders is a bone-numbing pain. I feel as though this is something I write a variation of in most of these columns. The sensation clearly remains. It’s a thankless process that rarely ends happily, with hundreds of order codes to run through and thousands of bits of data to think of. In the end, you will always mess up on several orders. You’ll discover this months down the line when you’re staring at empty shelf slots a couple hours into new comic book day or a section choked with product on the following Tuesday. At best, you can use your knowledge to mitigate any huge losses, and come out winning more often than you lose – but you’ll still lose, and you’ll still lose often.

How’s that for a cold open?

When I was going through last month’s Previews, I ran straight into the listing for Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane’s They’re Not Like Us and immediately took the internet to drop some misspelled opinions. I had been looking over the solicitation for a month at that point, and had been wondering what I was going to do when the time came to punch in some numbers. Over the course of the month, I waited for an interview to pop up regarding the book so that I’d have a little bit more to go on than what was in the solicitation. Nothing was forthcoming, so as I stared at the listing, I went through the contents of my gut to see what it thought.

I knew that the series would be good – or at least, would be a book that would appeal to me. I was familiar with Stephenson’s work through Nowhere Men and Long Hot Summer and was a fan. Gane, I knew from projects like The Vinyl Underground and Paris, and knew him to be an amazing draftsman. There was preview art and a cover that boasted contributions from the amazing Jordie Bellaire and Fonografiks with the promise that both would be a part of the series. These were all things that filled me with confidence in my ability to move this book, and gave me a vague idea as to the audience that I would be aiming for with it. I was also clearly worried about the book’s schedule, and how it would effect the sales and interest in the series.

As much as I liked (and like) Stephenson as a writer, my internal notes were telling me that this was a series that probably wouldn’t ship on time. I was basing this purely on the track record of his most recent series, Nowhere Men, which started off with a strong opening (both critically and sales-wise) before petering off into obscurity as the book slid further and further off schedule. By the time the sixth issue shipped, my sales were but a fraction of what I had started with for all of the usual reasons. Some took the waiting period as a sign that they should give up on the singles and wait for the collections. Others forgot about the book’s existence and plot and decided to leave it on the shelf when it finally arrived. Still more pulled it out of their budgeting calculations as other books moved in to fill the gap. The result had clearly left a bad taste in my mouth, one that led to my ordering dilemma.

theyrenotlikeus 01 The Retailers View // Scheduling Issues

Now I should note, shortly after sending the tweet out into the wild, I was greeted with a chorus that pointed to a google document Nowhere Men artist Nate Bellegarde had posted claiming full responsibility for the delays. I had not seen this, and plugging around the comics internet digs up very few news sites that actually linked to the information. This is unfortunately the fate of late books – no matter the reason (and Nate in particular had and has some very good reasons for the book’s disappearance), lateness results in disinterest, and disinterest results in lower sales. This, of course, translates to a hesitance on the part of a retailer in ordering a creator’s new books, which brings us back to the main point.

Armed with some incomplete information, I was ready to place an order far lower than I normally would for a book I think people are going to enjoy. The reverberating effects of this notion are quite wide-ranging. For example, I’m a guy who regularly checks comic book news sites, and has built up a network of folks who are ready to hand me some extra information should the situation require it. I’m not the norm when it comes to retailing. Others are just going to go on the information they have at hand – the concept, the names of the creators, and their past performance in store. More still won’t even order based on that – they’ll just plug in a token “Image number” brush their hands off, and call it a day without a second thought.

Going out from there, you’ll have readers who are similarly minded, who will see Eric Stephenson’s name, and assume that this title will be late before it’s even had a chance to prove itself. While many of you reading this article are the type to keep up on this kind of information, the majority of people buying comics at comic shops are very passive in their extracurricular consumption, opting to just read the comics as they come in without dipping their toes into the minutiae of it all. Most of these people will be getting information about this series from aforementioned retailers who don’t have a view of the bigger picture, and this might honestly result in middling sales for the series – at least to start. If memory serves, Nowhere Men was a series that was severely under ordered, and the quality of it pushed it through several printings of almost every single issue. This could very well be the case for They’re Not Like Us, and it could have quite healthy sales through to the end of its run, which would be nice – but regardless, damage will be done. People will go into shops and come up short – and while we’re living in a wonderful age where you’d be able to go to Image directly and nab a DRM-free digital copy, sales will still be lost in the transition – and that’s a problem. Hopefully, in this case, a very small one.

A regular schedule is key in terms of the success of a series, and of a creator. The comic market is littered with the corpses of books that launched strong, but flagged as delays hit. While some launch strong enough to weather the storm through to the end, nearly all of them proceed with a smaller audience. If the delays persist, the numbers will continue to shed at an accelerated rate along side of it, resulting in a monetary lesser for all those involved. Take a look at any sales chart, and find any book that has hit a patch of delays, and you will inevitably see the pattern. While there are some exceptions (there always are) the vast majority of books shipping on a delayed schedule lose readers at an equal pace. Books that don’t ship don’t fit into a store or a reader’s budget as well as books that show up as promised. Moreso, books that don’t ship stop being part of the conversation. Less is said about the story and more about the delays, until that becomes the story. People become okay with waiting, and so they do. Waiting breeds forgetfulness, and forgetfulness breeds death. The cycle continues, on and on.

If you’re in the business of producing comics, the most important thing you can do is hit your deadlines. Even a bi-monthly schedule is better than a promised monthly that doesn’t ship. The ideal, I think, is the <em>Saga</em> model, wherein you ship an arc on a monthly basis, delivering on the due date as promised on time, every time. In between the arcs, you can take a break. Let readers stew with a cliffhanger, and release your trade so stragglers can catch up. Offer retailers the chance to breath, sell a trade, and build up your audience. Come back guns blazing with another arc that comes out consistently. Because while delays within a story arc will kill you, delays between arcs will not. People are trained to deal with these gaps. Most serial media consumed thrives on gaps building pressure and audience in the interim. That’s the reason why sequels are a better bet to make money than a movie’s initial release. Come out with a good product, give the people an experience that has them clawing for more, and then let them wait. Let them stew. Time things right, and you can keep getting bigger and bigger. Start screwing up with your deadlines, and you’ll start to see that intensity and momentum dry up and fall away.

candycrushsaga The Retailers View // Scheduling Issues

Almost definitely what I’m talking about right now.

As the publisher of Image Comics, I’m sure Eric Stephenson already knows all of this information. He has enough sales data at his finger tips to know how delays effect a book, and how the model Saga has been running on is the ideal. It’s the way Jim Zub has been running things with Skullkickers from the start of his run, and each time his book has come back, sales have gotten stronger and stronger. It’s the way Antony Johnston has started running Umbral and The Fuse, and while I think it’s a little too early to say much about what those books are doing as a whole, I can say that the schedule has done well for his books in my store particularly. It’s a smart way to run a series, and honestly, I think it should be adopted by the industry in general. I honestly believe that instead of shipping books like Batman and Amazing Spider-Man on a never ending schedule, building in tangible breaks can do wonders. I worked a version of this when DC decided to soft launch a few of their books this October after building in a glorified skip-month in September. The results? I’ve sold twice the amount of Catwoman and three times the amount of Batgirl than what I did in August. Green Arrow admittedly stayed the same, but considering the fact that the title was coming off a run that was so indelibly tied to the previous creative team more than the character (at least in my shop), that’s not a small feat, as loss roughly equalled gain. In that particular case, DC would have done better pushing a publication gap for a couple of months before a big return. Sure, they would have missed timing the launch with the return of the Arrow television show, but in the end, the title would have been all the better for it.

Consistent shipping will do almost as much for a book as its perceived quality will. While a quality book can get by with delays, the results will almost always be lesser for it – at least in terms of periodical sales. For a perceived mediocre book, delays will result in death. Readers will stick with something if it comes out regularly, and they’ll stick around even longer if you can hit that final note and give them something to ponder over a break – but give them the slightest excuse to walk away, and they will, even if it’s a book they enjoy. Retailers, for their part, will always react to this, and they’ll carry a perception around as a result. They’re Not Like Us is a series that’s going to have perception working against it from the start, even though the creators have yet to do anything to truly earn that. It’s unfortunate, but in a business where the people ordering books are sifting through information for over 2500 listings a month, it is what it is.

Hit your marks. You’ll be glad you did.

3 Comments on The Retailer’s View // Scheduling Issues, last added: 11/4/2014
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21. The Retailer’s View: A Confluence of Events (Part One)

2014 is swiftly drawing to a close. In the midst of making sure my shelves will weather the upcoming Christmas season, I’ll be placing my final orders for the last dribs and drabs of product that will grace the new comic book shelves through to the end of this year. Most of the year’s events have drawn to a close, save Spider-Verse and Axis which sees Marvel through this quarter of the year. Two weeks ago, I made the mistake of thinking that I would have time to relax before having to stress about the next incoming ordering monstrosity.

I should really know better at this point.

ConvergencePromo 1200 545ac8e14697f7.11375445 1000x540 The Retailers View: A Confluence of Events (Part One)

Oh, honeycomb, won’t you be my baby, well, honeycomb, be my own.

Acknowledging that moving cross country and restaffing an editorial department might be distracting for its staff, DC officially announced it’s two month fill-in event today, CONVERGENCE. The event will replace the New 52 line-up for two months, April and May of 2015, with a framing 9-issue mini-series, starting with a zero issue, and spinning into 40 two part mini series.

--from The Beat’s coverage of Convergence.

 

Which is to say, at some point over the past year, DC decided to marry the twin hells of ordering weekly comics and scuttling their entire regularly scheduled ongoings for a month or two in a bid to drive me to an early grave. Or they took a look at what their production schedule would look like with an upcoming move across country and thought they might want to alleviate the stress on their staff. I honestly prefer the version where it’s somehow all about me, because I write diatribes on the internet and I am very hard done by.

Elsewhere, Marvel had been releasing several teaser images displaying interesting takes on previously ran stories, all with the promise of something big in the summer of 2015. As we found out on Friday, this was all in service of their upcoming return to Secret Wars. While details are still pretty vague on the Marvel front, they seem to be pushing an angle that would see their line drastically altered while all of this plays out, promising sweeping crossovers not only in their comic book line, but various forms of other media. What this means has yet to be seen, but in my nightmares, I picture a world burning as I try to punch in numbers for several reality-shifted titles for several months.

Admittedly, these are early days, and what we know about both events amounts to very little. While DC has been very specific about formats, they’re playing fast and loose with concepts. Marvel, on the other hand, has provided a bunch of concepts, but no shape or format. Attempting to parse a plan of attack for either at this point would be something akin to a group of blind men trying to figure out what an elephant looks like, so I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to go over some best case scenarios and build the shape that I’d like the events to take from a retail standpoint over the span of two articles (because you guys – there’s a lot to talk about). Some of this might be a little dry (and ultimately pointless in the face of decisions that have already been made), but providing a guide to what retailers are looking for in events such as these can’t hurt.

CONVERGENCE

Of the two, Convergence is being built as a necessity, more than something extravagant. Even if the concept was born out of creative decisions, the execution is all business, marrying the need for DC to pump out enough books to fill out their budgets while simultaneously alleviating editorial and creative pressures during the big move. As such, it’s already on the back foot, appearing as though it’s a fill-in event, something that is decidedly not their main line of books in any way, shape or form. If they don’t tackle this perception in the marketing, April and May might be a couple of DC’s worst months as many opt out of the two months of content.

One of the things the company should have done right off the bat, is get a name to help out with the main series. While I’m sure the new-to-comics writer Jeff King is a remarkable talent, if I walk up to my customers and tell them who is operating at the core of this event, I will inevitably be met with a “who?” from most parties. The inclusion of Dan Jurgens and Scott Lobdell as event consultants does offer a bit of name recognition, but not the kind that’s going to sell books. Again, talented as they may be, I haven’t been able to get those writers to move the dial up on any books that I’m selling, and when you are building two months worth of content, you need to be able to attach an element of interest to the creative, even if the creator in question is only consulting and helps bang out plot points.

eternalbatman 450x685 The Retailers View: A Confluence of Events (Part One)

An illustration of this point can be found in the sales of DC’s three weekly titles. Batman: Eternal is scripted by a rotating team of solid writers with superstar Batman writer Scott Snyder providing some plot work, sharing the workload with James Tynion IV. That book sells like gangbusters. Meanwhile, New 52: Future’s End launched with a free first issue, and a cracker jack creative team attached, but nobody who pushes into the stratosphere. The weekly Earth Two book is operating under similar conditions, and was sold as a sister title to the main Earth Two book. There is almost no reason for someone who isn’t already following Earth Two to follow the weekly, and my sales are definitely reflecting that. Had their been a more recognizable writer at the core, and had the marketing been something a bit deeper than do you like Earth Two, things would be quite different.

Jeff King should be paired with someone like… say, Warren Ellis. Or Grant Morrison. Or – dipping into the impossible for a second – Alan Moore. If this event has really been long in the planning, hiring a “get” to even just sit quietly in the corner of one or two Skype meetings in order to give more of a push would do wonders for the core – and if the core is strong, the books spinning outward will be all the better for it.

Going out from there, the announced slate of 40 two-part minis can and should be entirely self sustaining. DC should take great pains to let people know that there is zero knowledge required to check out both the main Convergence series and the minis that surround it. That’s how I’m going to sell things. While I know that Convergence is spinning out from the events of Superman: Doomed, Future’s End and Earth Two: World’s End, I’d never place that baggage on the event, unless it is earned. If DC puts out a product that pulls to heavily on prior knowledge, I might as well gather up almost every copy I’ve ordered of Convergence and set fire to it to keep warm. Nobody likes feeling like they don’t know what’s going on, and while it’s easy to wave a hand dismissively and say “they can catch up”, that’s a sure fire way to nab some pretty anemic sales. With so many entertainment options out there, both within the industry and without, “complication” is not a selling point, it’s a reason to jump ship. The less connective tissue the better.

As for the content of the two-part minis, DC should definitely be using the two months as an opportunity to truly get creative. If I had my druthers, about 25% of the books would feature regular creative teams being let loose. Let folks like Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello and Jeff Lemire and Gail Simone loose on your multiverse with a license to say or do anything. The other books? Run completely wild with surprising concepts and creators. Run it like Marvel’s recent Edge of Spider-Verse mini-series, handing out a framework and stepping back to see what unfurls. Becky Cloonan, Brandon Fletcher and Camerson Stewart have already proven they can spark some interest, let them all punch through two issues of something unique. Dig around near and far, and grab from all walks. Would Los Bros Hernadez be interested in something? How about folks like Rick Spears or Ales Kot? What about Bryan Lee O’Malley? Turn off the house style, and really make the month interesting. Get new readers coming to your line, instead of producing the same old, same old. Business as usual combined with a glorified fill-in event will only lead to disinterest, and I can guarantee the company isn’t expecting much from this line of books, so my not take a few massive risks? Who in their right mind would blame you given the fact that you’re moving across country while it’s happening?

Now, launching out from there, regardless of what the company attempts in the two months, the line should look quite different. Keep what’s been working, and otherwise, shake up the line. If this is done in tandem with an interest line-up of books during Convergance, the company will be able to drum up some vague interest, and capitalize on it completely when they double down and per some of the strange infiltrate their line.

Whatever happens, I can guarantee sales will give a fairly accurate representation for the amount of hustle the company is putting into producing the line. It will all be about perception, as retailers are going to be naturally wary of a line that doesn’t include Batman, the book by which all sales are literally measured.

TO BE CONTINUED…

On Wednesday, I’ll tackle what is known about Secret Wars, and how Marvel could potentially structure it to get the biggest bang for their buck. Until then, please comment with your thoughts below. I’m contemplating running this as a three parter, ending with your input on Friday, but that’s really up to you folks.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

4 Comments on The Retailer’s View: A Confluence of Events (Part One), last added: 11/11/2014
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22. Must read: David Harper analyzes the changing state of the industry

Jeff Smith rocket raccoon Must read: David Harper analyzes the changing state of the industry

Out with the old, in with the new? As we’ve been reporting, October comics sales were pretty damn massive. It’s the culmination of a year that started a little rocky but has blossomed as new trends blew into town behind a strong trade wind. Multiversity’s David Harper has the much needed big think piece on what’s happening complete with CHARTS. First he points out that The Big Two are still the big two:

Before we get into the bad, let’s look at the good. Marvel and DC continue to be the backbone of the industry. In October, the pair combined to account for over 67% of units shipped by Diamond, and they are and will continue to be the 800-pound gorillas that comics are mostly known for. Some often wish they would just go away, but they aren’t just necessary, they’re the absolute foundation of the livelihood of comics. With them gone, it would likely be difficult to impossible for the books you love to succeed or even exist.

What do I mean by that? Well, it’s pretty simple. In an industry that’s worth $50 million on average, DC and Marvel account for two thirds of that revenue. Without them, comic shops would have a hard time making enough money to survive. Without Marvel and DC, print comics would likely die just like the doomsayers are always saying they’re about to. In that way, Marvel and DC’s success is tantamount to the health of the industry, and we’ve seen them reach enormous heights in recent years.

BUT events, the backbone of the last 10 years of Big Two sales, are definitely losing their punch. Harper has charts that will show it all but here’s one stat on first issue sales:

House of M #: 233, 721 (2005)

Axis #1: 138,966 (2014)

At DC, events and weeklies are showing similar sales erosion.

But they sure do love their weeklies (or bi-weeklies, in the case of “Brightest Day”), and with three running right now, DC is seeing lower and lower sales on their debuts with each passing launch. The latest, “Earth 2: World’s End”, opened at a mediocre #57 with about 55% lower sales than “Batman Eternal” started with earlier this year. Anecdotal evidence from retailers have indicated that these books have sold less and less as their runs have went along, and it’s quite likely that DC’s huge bet on weeklies isn’t hitting the levels they were aiming for.

It has taken all my self control not to post those charts (PLEASE GO TO LINK) but I can’t resist this one, which I’ve meant to do when I had a spare moment myself: a chart showing Image’s market share growth from 4% in 2009 to its current 12%:

timthumb Must read: David Harper analyzes the changing state of the industry
That is some chart. Harper writes:

The chart you see above is Image’s growth in both unit share and in dollar share of the marketplace over the past five years. Between January 2009 and October 2014, Image’s unit share in the marketplace has more than quadrupled. And that’s not even an apples to apples comparison, as industry revenues have skyrocketed during that time, moving from $31.31 million in January 2009 to $56.09 million this month. That means Image is taking a bigger slice of a much bigger pie.

Now, this month their 12.28% number is a bit inorganically boosted – as I said before, “The Walking Dead” #132 was featured in October’s Loot Crate, and issue #133 (also in October) sold nearly 80% less without the Loot Crate bump – but that’s still a very impressive number that speaks to how effectively they’ve grown. It’s not even how big they’ve gotten that impresses me the most, though. It’s their Terminator like relentlessness in growing their market share. This wasn’t an overnight thing, but a steady progression.

But what else are those trade winds blowing in? Marvel and DC are betting their 2015 on Secret Wars and Convergence (although the latter is, to be fair, a stop gap.) Meanwhile, the usual poster children—Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye, Harley Quinn and not Batgirl and Gotham Academy—are finding a strong audience. And others have trimmed their sails (while boosting sales) as well:

Meanwhile, other publishers are embracing change more than ever. Boom! and Dynamite are putting together effective impersonations of Image’s creator-owned direction. Dark Horse is launching a bevy of awesome looking new titles from creators like Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Mike Mignola, and more. Archie has, against all odds, become a bastion of innovative and forward thinking storytelling. Valiant is attempting to bridge the gap between Marvel and DC’s universe building and Image’s creator friendly nature.

Harper leaves his analysis with a comparison to Motorola: a once dominant player that fell off the charts when they stuck with their tried and true business plan—small communication devices—while the world tacked to smart phones. About 14 years ago I gave a speech about the same thing at an industry gathering, but the telex machine was my metaphor: even pre internet, the telex machine had been done in by the fax machine, and tried to adapt by allowing you to send faxes from a telex. It didn’t work. The comics industry was in grave danger of sticking with a dying model back in 2000 when I delivered this speech.

Now, I don’t think Marvel and Dc are going to go way of the telex machine, or even Motorola—which is still around but in diminished capacity. Not with those 40 movies on the schedule. But…things have finally changed: I will allow myself one more theft as I construct my unified sales theory: Here’s the top 30 books from October, via ICv2:

TOP 300 COMICS – October 2014
Rank Index Title Price Pub Est.Qty
1 274.55 WALKING DEAD #132 (MR) $2.99 IMA  326,334
2 139.31 DEATH OF WOLVERINE #4 $4.99 MAR  165,582
3 126.92 THOR #1 $3.99 MAR  150,862
4 119.10 DEATH OF WOLVERINE #3 $4.99 MAR  141,567
5 116.92 AVENGERS AND X-MEN AXIS #1 $4.99 MAR  138,966
6 100.00 BATMAN #35 $4.99 DC  118,860
7 97.64 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #7 $3.99 MAR  116,051
8 83.75 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8 $3.99 MAR    99,549
9 81.87 HARLEY QUINN ANNUAL #1 $5.99 DC    97,312
10 74.01 AVENGERS AND X-MEN AXIS #2 $3.99 MAR    87,964
11 71.27 AVENGERS AND X-MEN AXIS #3 $3.99 MAR    84,708
12 63.44 JUSTICE LEAGUE #35 $3.99 DC    75,400
13 63.32 JUSTICE LEAGUE #34 $3.99 DC    75,264
14 62.41 CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 $4.99 MAR    74,183
15 60.18 DEATH OF WOLVERINE LOGAN LEGACY #1 $3.99 MAR    71,532
16 58.52 WALKING DEAD #133 (MR) $2.99 IMA    69,561
17 57.68 HARLEY QUINN #11 $2.99 DC    68,557
18 57.21 WYTCHES #1 (MR) [*] $2.99 IMA    67,996
19 52.70 BATGIRL #35 $2.99 DC    62,644
20 51.38 GUARDIANS OF GALAXY #20 $3.99 MAR    61,072
21 50.51 ALL NEW X-MEN #33 $3.99 MAR    60,032
22 49.28 GUARDIANS 3000 #1 $3.99 MAR    58,574
23 48.72 UNCANNY X-MEN #27 $3.99 MAR    57,908
24 48.65 ROCKET RACCOON #4 $3.99 MAR    57,830
25 48.28 DETECTIVE COMICS #35 $3.99 DC    57,385
26 47.76 AVENGERS #36 $3.99 MAR    56,771
27 46.72 SAGA #24 (MR) $2.99 IMA    55,534
28 45.95 BATMAN AND ROBIN #35 $2.99 DC    54,616
29 45.60 BATMAN ETERNAL #26 $2.99 DC    54,199
30 45.48 DEATHSTROKE #1 $2.99 DC    54,059

Setting aside the freakish Loot Crate numbers of The Walking Dead, this is not the chart you ever expected to see in the biggest sales month ever, with the Harley Quinn annual selling ealy 100,000 copies, Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches debuting at #18, and the new, Doc Marten’d Batgirl at #19. More teling to me—Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon is still selling 57,000 copies at issues #4. That is not a flash in the pan (Although I will wait for Jason’s monthly analysis for any variable I don’t know of.) The graphic novel chart for October shows a similar lemony fresh scent: the top five are two Batman Books, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye and Jonathan Hickman’s East of West. Even Paul Pope’s Aurora West made the top 20.

This is the new thing. I doubt that Marvel and DC’s reliance on events will go away, and I similarly doubt that they will cause the Big Two’s fleet to founder in shallow waters. It’s all ADDITIVE. While events are hard to order and offer diminishing returns, they still create a foundation for hundreds of stores.

The point is we finally have something of a healthy diversity in comics. The last time this happened was, ironically, in the switch over from the newsstand to the comics shops. Mainstream comics were experimenting with all kinds of wacky stuff in the late 70s, from Howard the Duck (a big hit in its day) to Jim Starlin. As he “direct sales market” arose, even Fantagraphics titles would sell 50,000 copies a month. Love and Rocket once sold what Rocket Raccoon does now. It only took us 30 years. And where we go from here?

Where we’re going there are no charts. But it looks like clear sailing for days and months to come.

9 Comments on Must read: David Harper analyzes the changing state of the industry, last added: 11/14/2014
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23. Kaboom Test Labs: The case of the dissappearing comics shop

KTL SPLASH Img Kaboom Test Labs: The case of the dissappearing comics shop

We’ve been talking about how the comics industry is doing well, and people seem to be making good on their business plans. But there are still cautionary tales. One such tale is Kaboom Test Labs, a two store chain located in Albuquerque, NM that abruptly closed shop this weekend. The main site has only a note that the owners were leaving New Mexico; a Facebook page where disappointed customers wondered what happened has been removed.

It’s all pretty mysterious, as the tipster who alerted me to this noted that the store was well liked, had a diverse staff and was building a good community, as a remaining FB page for other activities shows. Also the store had just about the best name ever.

Even stranger, the shop had just been the focus of a very positive story in the local news that made it sound like one of the good ones.

I emailed the owner but received no response. However digging around shows some financial difficulties in the recent past, enough to make shutting up shop and moving on a viable alternative.

Alas, sometimes all the good ideas in the world aren’t enough. Albuquerque is a tough economy, and opening a retail store is always a mix of planning and luck. We wish all those involved the best in getting things sorted out and hope that comics shoppers in Albuquerque can find another store to their liking.

1 Comments on Kaboom Test Labs: The case of the dissappearing comics shop, last added: 11/11/2014
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24. Tomorrow: Publishers Weekly Webcast on how Comics are Finding New Audiences

pwwebcast Tomorrow: Publishers Weekly Webcast on how Comics are Finding New Audiences

Want to find more about how graphic novel publishers are approaching the massive changes in comics readership and marketing now underway?

 

Then fire up your computer tomorrow at 1 pm EST for a webcast with

Howard Shapiro, author, The Hockey Saint/Animal Media Group

Michael Martens, vp of business development , Dark Horse

Matt Parkinson, vp of marketing, Dark Horse

Leyla Aker, VP publsihing Viz Media

Ashlee Vaughn, Marketing, Viz Media

 

I’ll  be moderating this chat but you can submit questions yourself.  And with such a smart group, this is bound to be a fascinating hour at a crucial time in the comics industry.

The event is FREE to attend. FREE!!! Just go here and sign up.  And tell ‘em The Beat sent you.

 

 

 

1 Comments on Tomorrow: Publishers Weekly Webcast on how Comics are Finding New Audiences, last added: 11/13/2014
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25. TGI-FOC: Degree of Variants

It’s the return of The Beat’s weekly look at comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of retail process that doesn’t merit a full column. The last time I tried to write one of these, I ended up staring at the screen as it blurred at 2am the night before I got married. That column never went up because it was clearly the product of jitters and hardly made a lick of sense. Oh, by the way, I got married, you guys. So there’s that.

IMAGE VARIANTS

Yesterday, Image announced a neat initiative that will see several of their books get The Wicked + The Divine variant covers in December, the first few of which are on this week’s FOC.

bitchplanetmckelviewilson 6f1ce 668x1028 TGI FOC: Degree of Variants

There’s a certain amount of genus involved in this campaign. First off, the rabid following Gillen and McKelvie have fostered over the years are going to eat these two up. In doing so, you’re going to see a fair amount of people expressing interest in a few titles that they might not have checked out before. That’s pretty cool. Add to that the fact that all of the titles receiving this treatment are either new #1s, or starting points for new arcs, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic cross-marketing opportunity that would be pretty hard to screw up.

Now let’s talk about how they screwed this up.

Instead of offering the variants as 50/50 style “order whatever you want” variants, Image is placing a 1 for 15 qualifier on the books, which means retailers will only be able to order a single copy for every 15 copies on the stands. Qualified variants such as that always stick in my craw. I’m not a big fan of variants in general (a longer column for another day), but I can at least get behind variants that you can order without qualification. That says you’re offering another variety for a reader to sample, letting them choose what cover they’d like. That, I understand. Qualified variants, on the other hand, are the dirt worst. They’re a dirty manipulation of the whole “supply and demand” market designed for cheap, easy money, both for publishers and retailers alike. If a retailer wants a bigger supply, they will have to order more copies. In order to cover the cost of those copies (many of which won’t sell), they will charge a premium for that cover. And hey, even if they don’t need to charge a premium to cover the costs of extra copies, they’ll probably mark it up because of the low supply, and the high demand.

shuttermckelviewilson 17964 2 668x1028 TGI FOC: Degree of Variants

When publishers do this, they are saying they value the collectors market more than they value the readers market – or at the very least, they’re willing to exploit broken parts of the system in order to achieve some short term gain. Unlike when Marvel and DC pump out anywhere from 13 to 52 different variants for a single series, I do believe that Image’s intent here is to get more eyeballs onto some well deserving books. Retailers ordering for these variants are going to pump up their numbers in order to match a perceived demand. More product is released to the market, and people aren’t so hard done by to find copies when the print run dries up. The problem is this: in search of a quick buck, there will be several retailers who over order. Some of them will even know better, but can’t help themselves. As a result, there will be copies of these titles that languish, unsold until they’re blown out the door at a loss – and if there’s two things you don’t want for your line of comics, it’s an attachment to the idea of “lost sales”. Why should a retailer order deep on future issues of Shutter or Bitch Planet if you have unsold copies? Wouldn’t it just be easier to order for files, and drink in the cash? Overstock always makes a retailer itchy, and an itchy retailer is going to react by cutting back on your book, either consciously or subconsciously. Either option is not good.

These variants should be offered like most Image variants – as an “order whatever you want”. The result will be a far more accurate representation of people who actually read the titles, and people who are checking it out due to the cover gimmick in question. Having more Wicked and Divine covers out there means that their fans have easier access to the covers they want – which might, in turn, make a collector of The Wicked + The Divine a reader of something else. That’s the goal. Readers over collectors. Long term gain over fast money. Honestly, this shouldn’t have to be said. But hey, let’s hear someone else say it.

Everybody moans about variants, but here’s the honest to goodness truth:

You stop ordering variants; we’ll stop making them.

They are only produced to shore up market share, that’s it and that’s all, and when used in conjunction with quantity-based incentives, they don’t sell more comics, they just result in stacks of unsold books that send the wrong message to your customers about the titles, your stores, and our industry.

That type of marketing is built on short-term sales goals that do little to grow and sustain readership, and it’s a trick that’s been done to death in other industries, to diminishing returns.

-Eric Stephenson at ComicsPro’s annual membership meeting, February 2014

The “you” he’s referring to is retailers. Honestly, I shouldn’t order these variants. I know better, and apparently Image knows better – or at least their publisher does.

That said, I’ve already placed my orders for them. They knew I was going to. That’s why they did it. We all know it’s a dumb idea, but no one can help themselves. And we wonder why the industry is plagued with short-term planning problems.

SHRINKING VARIANTS

Speaking of variants, Marvel just announced a brand new kind of variant that’s sure to give some collectors a really bad itching sensation just below the skin. Here’s the press release:

This January – the small hero with the big time heroics is ready for his shot in ANT-MAN #1, the new ongoing series from critically acclaimed creators Nick Spencer (Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Avengers World) and Ramon Rosanas (Night of the Living Deadpool). But first, Marvel is proud to present your first look at the exclusive ANT-MAN #1 Shrinking Variant – available only in comic shops!

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Kissy the face

From blockbuster artist Ed McGuinness – each ANT-MAN #1 Shrinking Variant is completely unique. Individually numbered, each cover features Ant-Man at a different size – small, large and everything in between. Fans lucky enough to get their hands on this highly collectable variant cover will own a unique piece of history, as no two variants are alike!

“This is completely unlike any cover we’ve ever attempted,” says Marvel SVP Sales & Marketing David Gabriel. “We’ve even had to utilize new technologies to make it happen. Each variant is completely unique. Each and every cover will feature a different sized Ant-Man. No two are identical!”

Scott Lang is ready to turn it all around in this brand new ongoing series. Sure he’s never been the world’s greatest super hero. Most people don’t even think he’s been the best Ant-Man – and the last guy created Ultron and joined the Masters of Evil, so that’s really saying something. But that’s all about to change. New city. New outlook. New Scott.

Be there for Scott Lang’s brand new day and don’t miss your chance to get your hands on this truly unique, one-of-a-kind variant before they’re gone for good! This time, nothing’s going to stop the astonishing Ant-Man! Be there when he returns to comic shops with the can’t miss ANT-MAN #1 Shrinking Variant comes exclusively to comic shops this January.

It’s a neat idea, one that would have been a good idea for the regular cover. Unfortunately, this isn’t for the main cover. If retailers want to get some copies of this special cover in the store, they’re going to have to exceed 150% of their orders for Hawkeye vs. Deadpool #1, a fact the press release neglects to mention. After all, why spoil a goodwill press release with the trials of actually obtaining the covers?

It will be interesting to see how demand goes for this variant, and what retailers will end up pricing them at. In my experience, “exceed XXX% and order whatever you want” variants don’t go for much more than cover price, so are hard to justify if you’re looking to cover the cost of unsold regular editions. I know I’m not going to try to order the variant – the math doesn’t work out even slightly – but regardless, I’m curious as to how this experiment will turn out.

INCOMING

The final order cut-off list has been a little crazy lately as printing deadlines start to jut up against each other during the mad rush to get things to the printer before things shut down for the holidays. Dark Horse started condensing their schedule last week, and Marvel has two weeks of product listed for this week, including the 7th and 8th issues of Axis. Ah, condensed shipping. You’re a special kind of hell.

A note: you might remember me talking about the Guardians of the Galaxy Annual in my first FOC column months ago. Well, after missing it’s original August shipping date by a mile, it’s reappeared on the FOC list for shipping on December 10th. Harsh, considering the fact that it would have been nice to have something that said Guardians of the Galaxy #1 on the shelves right after the movie hit, but when you hire Frank Cho to draw a thing, you kind of know what you’re getting. I mean, you’d almost have to at this point, wouldn’t you? Gorgeous art, horrendous deadline skills. Anyway, my orders dropped from chunky movie cross-promotion numbers, to something quite a bit smaller. Sure, I might get the odd Christmas sale from it, but I don’t expect what I could have gotten off that movie.

Otherwise, there’s nothing too exciting or noteworthy to really talk about on this week’s FOC. Marvel’s winding down their big event, and DC is holding their breath as they walk into Convergence.

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That said, people who are enjoying The Fade Out should tell their comic shops to try and bring in the collection of Hit. It was a wonderful 50s noir series that Boom! Studios put out this year that featured a compelling story by Bryce Carlson and stunning art by Vanessa R. Del Ray – who will soon be working with Grant Morrison on a new book for Black Mask Comics.

TO BE CONTINUED…

That will wrap things up for this week. The Retailer’s View will return on Monday with my promised look at what retailers are looking for from Marvel’s big Secret Wars event this summer. In the meantime, you can head off and read my thoughts on DC’s Convergence series. Until next time…

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